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201  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pasted on: May 25, 2016, 10:17:24 AM
The Once and Future Superpower
Why China Won’t Overtake the United States
By Stephen G. Brooks and William C. Wohlforth


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After two and a half decades, is the United States’ run as the world’s sole superpower coming to an end? Many say yes, seeing a rising China ready to catch up to or even surpass the United States in the near future. By many measures, after all, China’s economy is on track to become the world’s biggest, and even if its growth slows, it will still outpace that of the United States for many years. Its coffers overflowing, Beijing has used its new wealth to attract friends, deter enemies, modernize its military, and aggressively assert sovereignty claims in its periphery. For many, therefore, the question is not whether China will become a superpower but just how soon.

But this is wishful, or fearful, thinking. Economic growth no longer translates as directly into military power as it did in the past, which means that it is now harder than ever for rising powers to rise and established ones to fall. And China—the only country with the raw potential to become a true global peer of the United States—also faces a more daunting challenge than previous rising states because of how far it lags behind technologically. Even though the United States’ economic dominance has eroded from its peak, the country’s military superiority is not going anywhere, nor is the globe-spanning alliance structure that constitutes the core of the existing liberal international order (unless Washington unwisely decides to throw it away). Rather than expecting a power transition in international politics, everyone should start getting used to a world in which the United States remains the sole superpower for decades to come.

Lasting preeminence will help the United States ward off the greatest traditional international danger, war between the world’s major powers. And it will give Washington options for dealing with nonstate threats such as terrorism and transnational challenges such as climate change. But it will also impose burdens of leadership and force choices among competing priorities, particularly as finances grow more straitened. With great power comes great responsibility, as the saying goes, and playing its leading role successfully will require Washington to display a maturity that U.S. foreign policy has all too often lacked.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, March 2016.
Kevin Lamarque / REUTERS

U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Washington, March 2016.

THE WEALTH OF NATIONS

In forecasts of China’s future power position, much has been made of the country’s pressing domestic challenges: its slowing economy, polluted environment, widespread corruption, perilous financial markets, nonexistent social safety net, rapidly aging population, and restive middle class. But as harmful as these problems are, China’s true Achilles’ heel on the world stage is something else: its low level of technological expertise compared with the United States’. Relative to past rising powers, China has a much wider technological gap to close with the leading power. China may export container after container of high-tech goods, but in a world of globalized production, that doesn’t reveal much. Half of all Chinese exports consist of what economists call “processing trade,” meaning that parts are imported into China for assembly and then exported afterward. And the vast majority of these Chinese exports are directed not by Chinese firms but by corporations from more developed countries.

When looking at measures of technological prowess that better reflect the national origin of the expertise, China’s true position becomes clear. World Bank data on payments for the use of intellectual property, for example, indicate that the United States is far and away the leading source of innovative technologies, boasting $128 billion in receipts in 2013—more than four times as much as the country in second place, Japan. China, by contrast, imports technologies on a massive scale yet received less than $1 billion in receipts in 2013 for the use of its intellectual property. Another good indicator of the technological gap is the number of so-called triadic patents, those registered in the United States, Europe, and Japan. In 2012, nearly 14,000 such patents originated in the United States, compared with just under 2,000 in China. The distribution of highly influential articles in science and engineering—those in the top one percent of citations, as measured by the National Science Foundation—tells the same story, with the United States accounting for almost half of these articles, more than eight times China’s share. So does the breakdown of Nobel Prizes in Physics, Chemistry, and Physiology or Medicine. Since 1990, 114 have gone to U.S.-based researchers. China-based researchers have received two.

Precisely because the Chinese economy is so unlike the U.S. economy, the measure fueling expectations of a power shift, GDP, greatly underestimates the true economic gap between the two countries. For one thing, the immense destruction that China is now wreaking on its environment counts favorably toward its GDP, even though it will reduce economic capacity over time by shortening life spans and raising cleanup and health-care costs. For another thing, GDP was originally designed to measure mid-twentieth-century manufacturing economies, and so the more knowledge-based and global­ized a country’s production is, the more its GDP underestimates its economy’s true size.

A giant economy alone won’t make China the world’s second superpower.

A new statistic developed by the UN suggests the degree to which GDP inflates China’s relative power. Called “inclusive wealth,” this measure represents economists’ most systematic effort to date to calculate a state’s wealth. As a UN report explained, it counts a country’s stock of assets in three areas: “(i) manufactured capital (roads, buildings, machines, and equipment), (ii) human capital (skills, education, health), and (iii) natural capital (sub-soil resources, ecosystems, the atmosphere).” Added up, the United States’ inclusive wealth comes to almost $144 trillion—4.5 times China’s $32 trillion.

The true size of China’s economy relative to the United States’ may lie somewhere in between the numbers provided by GDP and inclusive wealth, and admittedly, the latter measure has yet to receive the same level of scrutiny as GDP. The problem with GDP, however, is that it measures a flow (typically, the value of goods and services produced in a year), whereas inclusive wealth measures a stock. As The Economist put it, “Gauging an economy by its GDP is like judging a company by its quarterly profits, without ever peeking at its balance-sheet.” Because inclusive wealth measures the pool of resources a government can conceivably draw on to achieve its strategic objectives, it is the more useful metric when thinking about geopolitical competition.

But no matter how one compares the size of the U.S. and Chinese economies, it is clear that the United States is far more capable of converting its resources into military might. In the past, rising states had levels of technological prowess similar to those of leading ones. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, for example, the United States didn’t lag far behind the United Kingdom in terms of technology, nor did Germany lag far behind the erstwhile Allies during the interwar years, nor was the Soviet Union backward technologically compared with the United States during the early Cold War. This meant that when these challengers rose economically, they could soon mount a serious military challenge to the dominant power. China’s relative technological backwardness today, however, means that even if its economy continues to gain ground, it will not be easy for it to catch up militarily and become a true global strategic peer, as opposed to a merely a major player in its own neighborhood.

Jo Yong-Hak / REUTERS A man looks at the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan in Busan, South Korea, July 2008.

BARRIERS TO ENTRY

The technological and economic differences between China and the United States wouldn’t matter much if all it took to gain superpower status were the ability to use force locally. But what makes the United States a superpower is its ability to operate globally, and the bar for that capability is high. It means having what the political scientist Barry Posen has called “command of the commons”—that is, control over the air, space, and the open sea, along with the necessary infrastructure for managing these domains. When one measures the 14 categories of systems that create this capability (everything from nuclear attack submarines to satellites to transport aircraft), what emerges is an overwhelming U.S. advantage in each area, the result of decades of advances on multiple fronts. It would take a very long time for China to approach U.S. power on any of these fronts, let alone all of them.

For one thing, the United States has built up a massive scientific and industrial base. China is rapidly enhancing its technological inputs, increasing its R & D spending and its numbers of graduates with degrees in science and engineering. But there are limits to how fast any country can leap forward in such matters, and there are various obstacles in China’s way—such as a lack of effective intellectual property protections and inefficient methods of allocating capital—that will be extremely hard to change given its rigid political system. Adding to the difficulty, China is chasing a moving target. In 2012, the United States spent $79 billion on military R & D, more than 13 times as much as China’s estimated amount, so even rapid Chinese advances might be insufficient to close the gap.

Then there are the decades the United States has spent procuring advanced weapons systems, which have grown only more complex over time. In the 1960s, aircraft took about five years to develop, but by the 1990s, as the number of parts and lines of code ballooned, the figure reached ten years. Today, it takes 15 to 20 years to design and build the most advanced fighter aircraft, and military satellites can take even longer. So even if another country managed to build the scientific and industrial base to develop the many types of weapons that give the United States command of the commons, there would be a lengthy lag before it could actually possess them. Even Chinese defense planners recognize the scale of the challenge.

Command of the commons also requires the ability to supervise a wide range of giant defense projects. For all the hullabaloo over the evils of the military-industrial complex and the “waste, fraud, and abuse” in the Pentagon, in the United States, research labs, contractors, and bureaucrats have painstakingly acquired this expertise over many decades, and their Chinese counterparts do not yet have it. This kind of “learning by doing” experience resides in organizations, not in individuals. It can be transferred only through demonstration and instruction, so cybertheft or other forms of espionage are not an effective shortcut for acquiring it.

    This is not your grandfather’s power transition.

China’s defense industry is still in its infancy, and as the scholar Richard Bitzinger and his colleagues have concluded, “Aside from a few pockets of excellence such as ballistic missiles, the Chinese military-industrial complex has appeared to demonstrate few capacities for designing and producing relatively advanced conventional weapon systems.” For example, China still cannot mass-produce high-performance aircraft engines, despite the immense resources it has thrown at the effort, and relies instead on second-rate Russian models. In other areas, Beijing has not even bothered competing. Take undersea warfare. China is poorly equipped for antisubmarine warfare and is doing very little to improve. And only now is the country capable of producing nuclear-powered attack submarines that are comparable in quietness to the kinds that the U.S. Navy commissioned in the 1950s. Since then, however, the U.S. government has invested hundreds of billions of dollars and six decades of effort in its current generation of Virginia-class submarines, which have achieved absolute levels of silencing.

Finally, it takes a very particular set of skills and infrastructure to actually use all these weapons. Employing them is difficult not just because the weapons themselves tend to be so complex but also because they typically need to be used in a coordinated manner. It is an incredibly complicated endeavor, for example, to deploy a carrier battle group; the many associated ships and aircraft must work together in real time. Even systems that may seem simple require a complex surrounding architecture in order to be truly effective. Drones, for example, work best when a military has the highly trained personnel to operate them and the technological and organizational capacity to rapidly gather, process, and act on information collected from them. Developing the necessary infrastructure to seek command of the commons would take any military a very long time. And since the task places a high premium on flexibility and delegation, China’s centralized and hierarchical forces are particularly ill suited for it.

THIS TIME IS DIFFERENT

In the 1930s alone, Japan escaped the depths of depression and morphed into a rampaging military machine, Germany transformed from the disarmed loser of World War I into a juggernaut capable of conquering Europe, and the Soviet Union recovered from war and revolution to become a formidable land power. The next decade saw the United States’ own sprint from military also-ran to global superpower, with a nuclear Soviet Union close on its heels. Today, few seriously anticipate another world war, or even another cold war, but many observers argue that these past experiences reveal just how quickly countries can become dangerous once they try to extract military capabilities from their economies.

But what is taking place now is not your grandfather’s power transition. One can debate whether China will soon reach the first major milestone on the journey from great power to superpower: having the requisite economic resources. But a giant economy alone won’t make China the world’s second superpower, nor would overcoming the next big hurdle, attaining the requisite technological capacity. After that lies the challenge of transforming all this latent power into the full range of systems needed for global power projection and learning how to use them. Each of these steps is time consuming and fraught with difficulty. As a result, China will, for a long time, continue to hover somewhere between a great power and a superpower. You might call it “an emerging potential superpower”: thanks to its economic growth, China has broken free from the great-power pack, but it still has a long way to go before it might gain the economic and technological capacity to become a superpower.

China’s quest for superpower status is undermined by something else, too: weak incentives to make the sacrifices required. The United States owes its far-reaching military capabilities to the existential imperatives of the Cold War. The country would never have borne the burden it did had policymakers not faced the challenge of balancing the Soviet Union, a superpower with the potential to dominate Eurasia. (Indeed, it is no surprise that two and a half decades after the Soviet Union collapsed, it is Russia that possesses the second-greatest military capability in the world.) Today, China faces nothing like the Cold War pressures that led the United States to invest so much in its military. The United States is a far less threatening superpower than the Soviet Union was: however aggravating Chinese policymakers find U.S. foreign policy, it is unlikely to engender the level of fear that motivated Washington during the Cold War.

Chinese soldiers in the Spratly Islands, in the contested South China Sea, February 2016.
STRINGER / REUTERS

Chinese soldiers in the Spratly Islands, February 2016.

Stacking the odds against China even more, the United States has few incentives to give up power, thanks to the web of alliances it has long boasted. A list of U.S. allies reads as a who’s who of the world’s most advanced economies, and these partners have lowered the price of maintaining the United States’ superpower status. U.S. defense spending stood at around three percent of GDP at the end of the 1990s, rose to around five percent in the next decade on account of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and has now fallen back to close to three percent. Washington has been able to sustain a global military capacity with relatively little effort thanks in part to the bases its allies host and the top-end weapons they help develop. China’s only steadfast ally is North Korea, which is often more trouble than it is worth.

Given the barriers thwarting China’s path to superpower status, as well as the low incentives for trying to overcome them, the future of the international system hinges most on whether the United States continues to bear the much lower burden of sustaining what we and others have called “deep engagement,” the globe-girdling grand strategy it has followed for some 70 years. And barring some odd change of heart that results in a true abnegation of its global role (as opposed to overwrought, politicized charges sometimes made about its already having done so), Washington will be well positioned for decades to maintain the core military capabilities, alliances, and commitments that secure key regions, backstop the global economy, and foster cooperation on transnational problems.

The benefits of this grand strategy can be difficult to discern, especially in light of the United States’ foreign misadventures in recent years. Fiascos such as the invasion of Iraq stand as stark reminders of the difficulty of using force to alter domestic politics abroad. But power is as much about preventing unfavorable outcomes as it is about causing favorable ones, and here Washington has done a much better job than most Americans appreciate.

For a largely satisfied power leading the international system, having enough strength to deter or block challengers is in fact more valuable than having the ability to improve one’s position further on the margins. A crucial objective of U.S. grand strategy over the decades has been to prevent a much more dangerous world from emerging, and its success in this endeavor can be measured largely by the absence of outcomes common to history: important regions destabilized by severe security dilemmas, tattered alliances unable to contain breakout challengers, rapid weapons proliferation, great-power arms races, and a descent into competitive economic or military blocs.

    A world of lasting U.S. military preeminence and declining U.S. economic dominance will test the United States’ capacity for restraint.

Were Washington to truly pull back from the world, more of these challenges would emerge, and transnational threats would likely loom even larger than they do today. Even if such threats did not grow, the task of addressing them would become immeasurably harder if the United States had to grapple with a much less stable global order at the same time. And as difficult as it sometimes is today for the United States to pull together coalitions to address transnational challenges, it would be even harder to do so if the country abdicated its leadership role and retreated to tend its garden, as a growing number of analysts and policymakers—and a large swath of the public—are now calling for.

LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION

Ever since the Soviet Union’s demise, the United States’ dramatic power advantage over other states has been accompanied by the risk of self-inflicted wounds, as occurred in Iraq. But the slippage in the United States’ economic position may have the beneficial effect of forcing U.S. leaders to focus more on the core mission of the country’s grand strategy rather than being sucked into messy peripheral conflicts. Indeed, that has been the guiding logic behind President Barack Obama’s foreign policy. Nonetheless, a world of lasting U.S. military preeminence and declining U.S. economic dominance will continue to test the United States’ capacity for restraint, in four main ways.

First is the temptation to bully or exploit American allies in the pursuit of self-interested gain. U.S. allies are dependent on Washington in many ways, and leaning on them to provide favors in return—whether approving of controversial U.S. policies, refraining from activities the United States opposes, or agreeing to lopsided terms in mutually beneficial deals—seems like something only a chump would forgo. (Think of the Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s frequent claims that the United States always loses in its dealings with foreigners, including crucial allies, and that he would restore the country’s ability to win.) But the basic contract at the heart of the contemporary international order is that if its members put aside the quest for relative military advantage, join a dense web of institutional networks, and agree to play by common rules, then the United States will not take advantage of its dominance to extract undue returns from its allies. It would be asking too much to expect Washington to never use its leverage to seek better deals, and a wide range of presidents—including John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and Obama—have done so at various times. But if Washington too often uses its power to achieve narrowly self-interested gains, rather than to protect and advance the system as a whole, it will run a real risk of eroding the legitimacy of both its leadership and the existing order.

A silk factory in Sichuan Province, China, July 2013. Even if China's economy overtakes the United States' its military power won't, at least not soon.
China Daily / REUTERS

A silk factory in Sichuan Province, China, July 2013.

Second, the United States will be increasingly tempted to overreact when other states—namely, China—use their growing economic clout on the world stage. Most of the recent rising powers of note, including Germany, Japan, and the Soviet Union, were stronger militarily than economically. China, by contrast, will for decades be stronger economically than militarily. This is a good thing, since military challenges to global order can turn ugly quickly. But it means that China will mount economic challenges instead, and these will need to be handled wisely. Most of China’s efforts along these lines will likely involve only minor or cosmetic alterations to the existing order, important for burnishing Beijing’s prestige but not threatening to the order’s basic arrangements or principles. Washington should respond to these gracefully and with forbearance, recognizing that paying a modest price for including Beijing within the order is preferable to risking provoking a more fundamental challenge to the structure in general.

The recent fracas over the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank is a good example of how not to behave. China proposed the AIIB in 2013 as a means to bolster its status and provide investment in infrastructure in Asia. Although its criteria for loans might turn out to be less constructive than desired, it is not likely to do major harm to the region or undermine the structure of the global economy. And yet the United States responded by launching a public diplomatic campaign to dissuade its allies from joining. They balked at U.S. opposition and signed up eagerly. By its reflexive opposition both to a relatively constructive Chinese initiative and to its allies’ participation in it, Washington created an unnecessary zero-sum battle that ended in a humiliating diplomatic defeat. (A failure by the U.S. Congress to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership as negotiated, meanwhile, would be an even greater fiasco, leading to serious questions abroad about U.S. global leadership.)

Third, the United States will still face the temptation that always accompanies power, to intervene in places where its core national interests are not in play (or to expand the definition of its core national interests so much as to hollow out the concept). That temptation can exist in the midst of a superpower struggle—the United States got bogged down in Vietnam during the Cold War, as did the Soviet Union in Afghanistan—and it clearly exists today, at a time when the United States has no peer rivals. Obama has carefully guarded against this temptation. He attracted much criticism for elevating “Don’t do stupid stuff” to a grand-strategic maxim. But if doing stupid stuff threatens the United States’ ability to sustain its grand strategy and associated global presence, then he had a point. Missing, though, was a corollary: “Keep your eye on the ball.” And for nearly seven decades, that has meant continuing Washington’s core mission of fostering stability in key regions and keeping the global economy and wider order humming.

Finally, Washington will need to avoid adopting overly aggressive military postures even when core interests are at stake, such as with China’s increasingly assertive stance in its periphery. It is true that Beijing’s “anti-access/area-denial” capabilities have greatly raised the costs and risks of operating U.S. aircraft and surface ships (but not submarines) near China. How Washington should respond to Beijing’s newfound local military capability, however, depends on what Washington’s strategic goals are. To regain all the military freedom of action the United States enjoyed during its extraordinary dominance throughout the 1990s would indeed be difficult, and the actions necessary would increase the risk of future confrontations. Yet if Washington’s goals are more limited—securing regional allies and sustaining a favorable institutional and economic order—then the challenge should be manageable.

    By adopting its own area-denial strategy, the United States could still deter Chinese aggression and protect U.S. allies.

By adopting its own area-denial strategy, for example, the United States could still deter Chinese aggression and protect U.S. allies despite China’s rising military power. Unlike the much-discussed Air-Sea Battle doctrine for a Pacific conflict, this approach would not envision hostilities rapidly escalating to strikes on the Chinese mainland. Rather, it would be designed to curtail China’s ability during a conflict to operate within what is commonly known as “the first island chain,” encompassing parts of Japan, the Philippines, and Taiwan. Under this strategy, the United States and its allies would employ the same mix of capabilities—such as mines and mobile antiship missiles—that China itself has used to push U.S. surface ships and aircraft away from its coast. And it could turn the tables and force China to compete in areas where it remains very weak, most notably, undersea warfare.

The premise of such a strategy is that even if China were able to deny U.S. surface forces and aircraft access to the area near its coast, it would not be able to use that space as a launching pad for projecting military power farther during a conflict. China’s coastal waters, in this scenario, would turn into a sort of no man’s sea, in which neither state could make much use of surface ships or aircraft. This would be a far cry from the situation that prevailed during the 1990s, when China could not stop the world’s leading military power from enjoying unfettered access to its airspace and ocean right up to its territorial border. But the change needs to be put in perspective: it is only natural that after spending tens of billions of dollars over decades, China has begun to reverse this unusual vulnerability, one the United States would never accept for itself.

While this area-denial strategy would help solve a long-term problem, it would do little to address the most immediate challenge from China: the military facilities it is steadily building on artificial islands in the South China Sea. There is no easy answer, but Washington should avoid too aggressive a reaction, which could spark a conflict. After all, these small, exposed islands arguably leave the overall military balance unchanged, since they would be all but impossible to defend in a conflict. China’s assertiveness may even be backfiring. Last year, the Philippines—real islands with extremely valuable basing facilities—welcomed U.S. forces back onto its shores after a 24-year absence. And the United States is now in talks to base long-range bombers in Australia.

To date, the Obama administration has chosen to conduct so-called freedom-of-navigation operations in order to contest China’s maritime claims. But as the leader of the order it largely shaped, the United States has many other arrows in its quiver. To place the burden of escalation on China, the United States—or, even better, its allies—could take a page from China’s playbook and ramp up quasi-official research voyages in the area. Another asset Washington has is international law. Pressure is mounting on China to submit its territorial disputes to arbitration in international courts, and if Beijing continues to resist doing so, it will lose legitimacy and could find itself a target of sanctions and other diplomatic punishments. And if Beijing tried to extract economic gains from contested regions, Washington could facilitate a process along the lines of the proportional punishment strategy it helped make part of the World Trade Organization: let the Permanent Court of Arbitration, in The Hague, determine the gains of China’s illegal actions, place a temporary tariff on Chinese exports to collect exactly that much revenue while the sovereignty claims are being adjudicated, and then distribute them once the matter is settled before the International Court of Justice. Whatever approach is adopted, what matters for U.S. global interests is not the islands themselves or the nature of the claims per se but what these provocations do to the wider order.

Although China can “pose problems without catching up,” in the words of the political scientist Thomas Christensen, the bottom line is that the United States’ global position gives it room to maneuver. The key is to exploit the advantages of standing on the defensive: as a raft of strategic thinkers have pointed out, challenging a settled status quo is very hard to do.
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KNOW THYSELF

Despite China’s ascent, the United States’ superpower position is more secure than recent commentary would have one believe—so secure, in fact, that the chief threat to the world’s preeminent power arguably lies within. As U.S. dominance ebbs slightly from its peak two decades ago, Washington may be tempted to overreact to the setbacks inherent in an admittedly frustrating and hard-to-manage world by either lashing out or coming home—either way abandoning the patient and constructive approach that has been the core of its grand strategy for many decades. This would be a grave mistake. That grand strategy has been far more successful and beneficial than most people realize, since they take for granted its chief accomplishment—preventing the emergence of a much less congenial world.

One sure way to generate a wrong-headed push for retrenchment would be to undertake another misadventure like the war in Iraq. That America has so far weathered that disaster with its global position intact is a testament to just how robust its superpower status is. But that does not mean that policymakers can make perpetual blunders with impunity. In a world in which the United States retains its overwhelming military preeminence as its economic dominance slips, the temptation to overreact to perceived threats will grow—even as the margin of error for absorbing the costs of the resulting mistakes will shrink. Despite what is being said on the campaign trail these days, the United States is hardly in an unusually perilous global situation. But nor is its standing so secure that irresponsible policies by the next president won’t take their toll.
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207  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US behind the curve; Icebreakers on: May 24, 2016, 09:47:25 PM
http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/05/24/u-s-falls-behind-in-arctic-great-game/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=New%20Campaign&utm_term=*Editors%20Picks

The United States is scrambling to catch up with a big, global push to build icebreakers as the melting Arctic opens the once-frozen north to oil drilling, new shipping and cruise routes, and intensified military competition.

Countries from Russia to China and Chile are all muscling ahead to build a new generation of icebreaking ships. The United States, despite a belated polar effort last year by the Obama administration, has struggled to upgrade its tiny and aging icebreaker fleet, potentially leaving it at a disadvantage in the race for influence in the Arctic.

But on Tuesday, a Senate Appropriations subcommittee earmarked $1 billion for a new polar icebreaker — a potentially big step forward toward building at least the first new ship of its kind in more than a generation.

If passed by Congress, that would fund nearly the entire cost of the ship’s construction, avoiding contentious and yearly fights over money. But it also essentially puts any larger American ambitions in the Arctic on ice for at least a decade while the ship is being built.

The U.S. Coast Guard, which operates the icebreaking fleet, has said it needs six big ships to handle all its missions in the Arctic and in Antarctica. Building fewer than that will make it harder for Washington to police those open waters, escort commercial and cruise shipping, and carry out search-and-rescue missions, among other things.

“It’s unfortunate that our nation, an Arctic nation, has fallen so far behind with this capability, particularly as the Arctic enters an extremely dynamic geopolitical and environmental period of rapid change,” retired Adm. David Titley, who set up the U.S. Navy’s task force on climate change, told Foreign Policy.

    “Icebreaking capacity is a very good hedging strategy, and our capacity is very limited.”

“Icebreaking capacity is a very good hedging strategy, and our capacity is very limited.”

The newly proposed funding would ease budgetary pressure on the Coast Guard, which has a total ship acquisition budget of less than the cost of a single new icebreaker. And it’s a throwback to the way the United States funded and built its last Arctic workhorse, the Healy, beginning in 1990.

To judge by bustling shipyards, plenty of other countries are preparing for increasing activity in the Arctic and the Antarctic, even countries far from the poles. Russia, which already has the world’s biggest icebreaking fleet, is building a dozen more ships, including several nuclear-powered icebreakers. China just launched its second icebreaker and has a third under construction. Finland is currently constructing the world’s first icebreaker to be powered by liquefied natural gas, or LNG. A Korean shipyard is building a fleet of ice-capable LNG shipping tankers in anticipation of the coming Arctic gas boom. Norway and the Netherlands are building ice-capable cruise ships. And several countries — France, Britain, Chile, and Australia — are all building new ships to operate in Antarctica, and Argentina just refurbished its single icebreaker to restore its polar capability.

Most of the activity is in response to a record-setting melt of Arctic sea ice. This past winter, the Arctic again set a record for the lowest amount of winter ice coverage and is on track this year to shatter the summertime minimum as well. The Arctic is warming so fast that the U.S. Navy this spring had to call off its annual Arctic exercise a week early, after the ice began to crack.

That is literally opening what amounts to a new ocean at the top of the world. Countries and companies, especially in China, are eyeing new shipping routes. Beijing said recently it intends to promote more shipping through the Northwest Passage, via Canada, while Chinese shipping giant COSCO plans greater use of the Northern Sea Route, along the top of Siberia. The opening Arctic is creating a new market for tourists, as well: This summer, for the first time, a cruise ship will sail from Anchorage, Alaska, to New York City, through the Northwest Passage.

And while oil companies have bailed out of the U.S. Arctic for now, exploration and drilling for oil and gas continues apace in Europe and especially in Russian waters.

“We’re in a situation where the global icebreaking fleet is not meeting demand,” said Tero Vauraste, the president and CEO of Arctia, a Finnish shipbuilder specializing in icebreakers.

But the United States is lagging behind. It currently has a single heavy icebreaker nearing the end of its operational life and a medium icebreaker used in the Arctic. For years, despite pleas by the Coast Guard, Congress was loath to fund new ships, which can cost upwards of $1 billion each.

Now, the rapidly melting Arctic and new geostrategic battleground are seemingly changing that calculus. U.S. President Barack Obama visited Alaska last year and called for rebuilding the icebreaker fleet. Earlier this year, the Coast Guard asked for $150 million in funding to design two new planned icebreakers and hopes to award a production contract by 2019. If the defense appropriations bill passes Congress, the construction of at least one new ship is guaranteed.

A few years ago, the changing conditions in the Arctic “weren’t seen as the wolf closest to the sled,” said Sherri Goodman, a former deputy undersecretary of defense and a fellow at the Wilson Center. “It’s still not the closest, but it’s getting closer.”

But building two new ships would simply replace the two currently in service and would still leave the Coast Guard short of the six-strong fleet it says it needs. What’s more, it will take at least a decade to build the first of the new heavy icebreakers, even if funding is guaranteed. That leaves a dicey window in the meantime.

    “We’re very mindful that, as vulnerable as we are today, our vulnerability will only increase over time,” until the new ships are built, Adm. Paul Zukunft, the commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, told FP.

“We’re very mindful that, as vulnerable as we are today, our vulnerability will only increase over time,” until the new ships are built, Adm. Paul Zukunft, the commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, told FP.

Some lawmakers have railed for years against Washington’s bureaucratic infighting and go-slow approach to Arctic issues.

“I get very impatient because I don’t see us prioritizing icebreakers as a national asset,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who formed an Arctic caucus last year to push for greater U.S. involvement in the region. And that, she said, has implications as the Arctic becomes a focus of economic and geopolitical competition.

“People can quibble about what we have versus what Russia has versus what China is building. All I can tell you is we are not in the game right now,” Murkowski said. She and colleagues from across the aisle pushed through the defense appropriations bill this week in a bid to resolve the long-standing fight over who will pay for the new ship.

Other lawmakers are also pushing the administration to make new icebreakers a broader priority. Alaska’s other senator, Dan Sullivan, a Republican, compared Russia’s huge fleet of nuclear-powered icebreakers that open new routes through the Arctic with the aging U.S. ships stretched among several missions.

    “Right now, the Russians have superhighways, and we have dirt roads with potholes,” Sullivan said.

“Right now, the Russians have superhighways, and we have dirt roads with potholes,” Sullivan said.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), who serves on the House Armed Services Committee and its panel that oversees the Coast Guard, is usually an outspoken critic of the White House. But he has become an unlikely booster of the Obama administration’s Arctic push, worried that the cash-strapped Coast Guard can’t purchase the pricey new ships on its own. Hunter this week had called on the U.S. Navy to help pay for the new ships.

“It’s more of a Navy issue,” he said, which requires “getting the Navy to realize they’re the ones who are going to benefit from this; the Coast Guard can’t do it.”

Despite the possible funding through the defense budget, the U.S. Navy insists icebreaking is not its mission: It can go through the Arctic anytime it wants with nuclear submarines.

“U.S. Navy submarines regularly use the Arctic as a transit route between the Atlantic and the Pacific, greatly improving mission agility and flexibility. Only submarines can do this,” Navy spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Tim Hawkins said.

But Titley, the former Navy admiral, says the United States needs the ability to operate on the ocean’s surface as well. “Virtual presence is physical absence,” he said. “It’s all well and good to say you have interests in the Arctic, but if you can only be on the surface where there is little or no danger of ice, then your presence is very restricted.”

Canada may be in an even tougher bind: It has greater Arctic responsibilities than the United States but faces many of the same constraints on new icebreaker construction. As part of its joint Navy-Coast Guard $37 billion shipbuilding plan, Canada currently aims to construct a new polar ship over the next decade at a cost of about $1.2 billion. But it won’t start construction until the Vancouver shipyard where it will be built has finished new support vessels for the Royal Canadian Navy. In the meantime, a Canadian Coast Guard spokesperson told FP, Ottawa will refurbish its sole existing icebreaker to keep it in service for another decade.

Other countries have been floating possible solutions to help both the United States and Canada bridge their icebreaker gaps. Finland, for example, built more than half of the worldwide icebreaking fleet and has plenty of shipyards with specialized design and construction experience. Finnish government representatives reportedly met with U.S. and Canadian government officials this year to propose collaborating on the design and construction of new icebreakers, and they bent the ear of U.S. lawmakers at a recent summit between the United States and Nordic leaders on the same issue.

Vauraste says Arctia can build a heavy icebreaker in Finnish yards for about 250 million euros, far cheaper than the proposed price tag for new U.S. and Canadian ships. And Arctia could also help the United States design its new ship, he said, given U.S. shipyards haven’t built an icebreaker in 20 years or a heavy icebreaker in 40. “There is increasing interest” in Washington, he said. “It’s definitely not a non-starter.”

Murkowski said international collaboration, whether for co-design, building, or leasing existing ships, “needs to be on the table.”

Zukunft of the Coast Guard said he has held lots of conversations about collaboration with other nations, including Finland, but that it’s “too early” to make any commitments. The Coast Guard does have partnerships with Finland and Canada to share best practices on icebreaking acquisition.

But there are legal and political restrictions in both the United States and Canada that prohibit relying on foreign shipbuilders. Under U.S. law, no major component of a Coast Guard ship can be built in a foreign shipyard. And U.S. shipbuilders are gearing up for billions of dollars in local contracts, especially Huntington Ingalls Industries, which manufactures the Coast Guard’s National Security Cutters and built the last U.S. icebreaker in 1997. And there are no heavy icebreakers currently available to lease, even if that were an option, said Zukunft.

That means, for the foreseeable future, both the United States and Canada could well find themselves short-handed when it comes to being able to operate in the Arctic, just as the region is opening up to new economic and even military activities. Finding a way to patrol U.S. waters, respond to oil spills and stranded cruise ships, or police a flurry of shipping activity through the Bering Strait will likely strain America’s tiny and aging icebreaking fleet, especially if there’s no will or ability to lease ships from other countries to help fill the gap.

“That’s the near-term risk that needs to be addressed, and that’s why it’s urgent to develop that capability now,” Goodman said. “Because those risks are only going to increase as there is more activity in the Arctic.”

FP reporter Molly O’Toole contributed to this article.
208  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Hillbillary Clintons long, sordid, and often criminal history on: May 24, 2016, 02:39:50 PM
I just took a stab at editing in paragraph breaks.


Also, I think that it might better fit in the Foreign Policy thread, nothing to do with the Clintons' corruption in it.
209  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Reagan on American Foreign Policy on: May 24, 2016, 02:36:03 PM
https://www.facebook.com/1682260838710014/videos/1704939616442136/?pnref=story
210  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / ISIS camps on Texas border? on: May 24, 2016, 02:31:29 PM
http://www.judicialwatch.org/blog/2015/04/isis-camp-a-few-miles-from-texas-mexican-authorities-confirm/

http://dailycaller.com/2016/05/23/gen-boykin-obama-is-letting-terrorists-cross-the-border-and-gop-is-too-weak-to-stop-it/
211  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pinal County AZ sheriff says "Bring your gun!" on: May 23, 2016, 10:34:59 PM
http://www.abc15.com/news/region-central-southern-az/florence/hikers-campers-warned-about-assassins-in-parts-of-pinal-county
212  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: The Meaning of Geography on: May 23, 2016, 08:59:33 PM


Editor's Note: The Global Affairs column is curated by Stratfor's editorial board, a diverse group of thinkers whose expertise inspires rigorous and innovative thought in our analyses. Though their opinions are their own, they inform and sometimes even challenge our beliefs. We welcome that challenge, and we hope our readers do too.

By Ian Morris

Like so many of Stratfor's contributors, I spend a lot of time thinking about geography. In my 2010 book Why the West Rules — For Now, I even suggested that geography has been the main force determining the different fates of each part of the planet for the past 20,000 years. The way this works, I argued, was that geography drives social development, determining what it is possible for the members of each society to do, but at the same time social development drives geography, determining what the space around us means.

Geography is the reason Northwest Europe was, through most of history, a backward periphery. It was a long way away from the real cores of development, which stretched from the Mediterranean Sea to China, and it was sealed off from the rest of the world by an ocean that was too big and too wild to master. But in the 16th and 17th centuries, when people began building reliable oceangoing ships, the meaning of Northwest Europe's geography changed. Development transformed the Atlantic from a barrier into a highway, linking Europe to the rest of the planet and changing it from a periphery into the first truly global core. In the 20th century, however, as development continued to rise, the Pacific Ocean effectively shrank too, thanks to airlines, container ships and the Internet. The result was that East Asia repeated Europe's trick, moving from periphery to core as the Pacific shifted from barrier to highway.

This long-term process, I argued, explained why the West has dominated the planet for the past two or three centuries, why the East is now challenging it and where the world will go next. But as I began traveling around talking about the ideas in my book, one question kept coming up: Is the meaning of geography changing so much that it has ceased to mean anything at all?
A New World in the Making?

Parag Khanna's Connectography: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization is in effect an answer to this all-important question. The book, published just a month ago, has won wide attention, its sales reaching a level in the Amazon charts normally reserved for volumes of recipes or self-help, and it has already featured prominently in the Global Affairs space. Khanna himself has written a column for Stratfor explaining what his arguments tell us about China, while Jay Ogilvy has reprinted extensive excerpts from the book. My reason for coming back to Connectography yet again in this week's column is that Khanna's answer to what geography will mean in the 21st century is the most compelling I have seen, yet also the most open to further arguments.

Khanna agrees that geography drives social development and that social development drives what geography means, but he goes one step further by identifying the mechanism through which development feeds back into geography: infrastructure. Humanity, he suggests, is "re-engineering the planet." Another excellent book, the archaeologist Barry Cunliffe's By Steppe, Desert, and Ocean: The Birth of Eurasia, shows that this process has been going on for at least 6,000 years, beginning with the domestication of the horse in Ukraine and accelerating with the invention of wheeled transport, the building of boats and roads, and the creation of cities. But Khanna's concern is the world since 1989. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the rise of the World Wide Web, he says, connectivity has replaced the old Westphalian world of borders with what he calls the "supply chain world."

"Supply chains and connectivity," he says, "not sovereignty and borders, are the organizing principles of humanity in the 21st century … A country cannot change where it is, but connectivity offers an alternative to the destiny of geography." The metaphor he uses to explain what has happened is the map. Old-style maps show the borders, oceans and mountain ranges that divide people; new-style maps show the flows that connect them. Since 1989, the number of separate political units on Earth has grown, but, Khanna suggests, their integration into much larger functional units has proceeded even faster as "countries use shared infrastructure, customs agreements, banking networks, and energy grids to evolve from political to functional spaces."

What is Global Affairs?

But Khanna is not just claiming that aggregation has counted for more than devolution. Rather, he argues, "The aggregation-devolution dynamic is … a dialectic in the sense that the German philosopher G. W. F. Hegel truly meant: progression through opposites toward transcendence," the transcendence in question being "a shift from 'us-them' mentalities toward a broader human 'we.'" Political devolution is crucial to this, Khanna suggests, because "once borders are settled, countries search for optimal service areas" tied together by flows of goods and services. "Supply chains," he concludes, "thus diminish the incentives for conflict." The causes of war as we have known them since the creation of a Westphalian world are evaporating. "Alliances have been replaced with dalliances," Khanna says, "based on supply-demand complementarity."

There is a lot more going on in Khanna's book, but I want to concentrate on this core idea, which makes much sense of our shrinking and flattened but also warming and crowded world. But at this point in the story, I believe, stepping back to take a much longer perspective on history has something to add to an account that — as Khanna makes explicit — rarely looks back beyond the 27 years since 1989.
The Evolution of Violence

Connectography analyzes what is simply the latest and most dramatic phase of an ancient story. Life — by which biologists normally mean self-replicating carbon-based organisms, extracting energy from their environment and turning it into more of themselves — came into the world about 3.8 billion years ago in the form of short chains of carbon-based molecules held together by crude membranes. By 3.5 billion years ago, these carbon blobs had evolved to the point that they could combine to form simple cells in which molecules took on specialized functions. By 1.5 billion years ago, cells had evolved to connect and combine sexually, reproducing by sharing the information in the DNA of two cells rather than cloning a single cell. By 600 million years ago, some cells were sharing genetic information so thoroughly that they could combine by the millions to make multicellular organisms. (Our own bodies each contain about 100 billion cells.)

Basically, evolution is connectography all the way down. Borrowing Khanna's language, we might say natural selection produced the "optimal service areas" that most effectively transmitted genetic material through time (this is what the biologist Richard Dawkins meant when he described bodies as "survival machines," infrastructures selected by evolution as the optimal vehicles to preserve DNA). And, just as in the post-1989 world that Khanna describes, connectography has always been about competition as well as cooperation. Cells evolved because carbon-based molecules that cooperated to form them could better compete for access to energy than molecules that did not. Similarly, multicelled survival machines proved competitive against single-celled ones. And in the past 100 million years, some organisms — ants, bees and apes like us — have evolved to become social animals that cooperate as groups and compete against animals that do not share the same tendencies (and, of course, against rival groups).

The first animals to evolve "infrastructure" that functioned specifically to help them compete against other animals were what biologists call proto-sharks, which, around 400 million years ago, started sprouting cartilaginous teeth set in jaws strong enough to tear the flesh of other animals. Proto-sharks had found a shortcut in the great race for energy: They could steal the energy stored in other animals' bodies by eating them, and if they bumped into other proto-sharks competing for the same morsel of food or sexual partner, they could fight. Teeth raised competition to a new level, and other species responded by developing scales for defense, speed for fleeing and teeth (or stingers, or poison sacs, or claws and fangs — nature is ingenious) for fighting back. Violence had evolved.

Almost every species of animal, us included, has by now evolved to be able to use force to settle disputes. Where we humans differ from the other animals, though, is that each of us carries the greatest miracle of connectivity in the known universe: the human brain. This allows us to exercise conscious choice in building institutions, organizations and cultures. Whereas other animals respond to changes in their environments by adapting genetically, gradually turning into new kinds of animals, we can also respond culturally, by choosing to do things differently. Some 20,000 years ago, the average human stood a roughly 1-in-10 chance of dying violently (which are also the odds that the typical chimpanzee, one of our nearest genetic neighbors, still faces). According to the World Health Organization, though, the global rate of violent death is now just 0.7 percent. In some lucky places, such as Denmark, it is barely 0.001 percent. Unlike any other animals that have ever existed, we have reduced our rate of violent death by 90 percent without evolving into a new species.

The story behind this, which I told in detail in my book War! What is it Good For?, is linked to — but not quite the same as — that told in Connectography. For thousands of years people have been creating larger and larger "optimal service areas" but did so primarily through violent conquest. The conquerors, as Thomas Hobbes reasoned in his 17th-century classic Leviathan, then constituted themselves as rulers, wielding enough power to bully their subjects into accepting that only their governments had the legitimate right to use force. As states imposed peace within their territories, the kind of functional geography that Khanna describes also emerged within and even between these empires. Staggering numbers of first-century Roman wine jars, for instance, have been found at Muziris on the Indian coast, while so much Chinese silk flowed into the Roman Empire that geographer Pliny the Elder worried the outward flow of silver to pay for it would destabilize the Roman currency. In the age of the Roman, Mauryan and Han empires, roughly 2,000 years ago, rates of violent death had probably fallen to somewhere around 2 percent, and per capita levels of consumption had risen by perhaps 50 percent.

The process of connectivity and pacification through Leviathans went into overdrive in the past two centuries with the creation of governments — first British, then American — that could operate on an intercontinental scale. Neither was a world government, but like the smaller Leviathans of antiquity, these organizations operated by raising the costs that other governments faced if they resorted to violence. One consequence, though, was that they learned how to harness so much destructive power that by the 1970s there were probably enough nuclear weapons to have killed everyone on Earth. It is perhaps the greatest paradox in history that as the potential to deliver death has gone up, the actual rate of violent death has gone down.
Old Meanings Still Apply

That is the somewhat-good news that we learn from the long-term history of connectography; the downright bad news is that the road so far has been extremely bumpy. The growth of Leviathans and connectivity has regularly generated backlashes that have undone global peace and prosperity. In the third century, empires started coming apart from the Mediterranean to China. Trade routes collapsed, populations crashed and violence spiked back up. In the 13th and 14th centuries, and again in the 20th, Eurasia teetered on the edge of a similar abyss. In each case what rebooted the growth of connectivity, peace and prosperity was the revival of Leviathans.

Khanna implicitly recognizes much of this but still concludes that, "Global order is no longer something that can be dictated or controlled from the top down." But that, I would say, should in fact be the question: Have connectivity and infrastructure really thickened so dramatically that they have rendered political geography insignificant, replacing war as a tool for reordering the world's supply chains? At one point Khanna quotes Barry Lynn of the New America Foundation as saying that "corporations have built the most efficient system of production the world has ever seen, perfectly calibrated to a world in which nothing bad ever happens," and I could not help but feel that Lynn's line applies equally well to Connectography as a whole. Khanna offers us a best-case scenario.

The world is changing, and Khanna is surely right not only that supply chains and cyberspace are taking on lives of their own but also that in the best of all possible worlds, inclusive functional geography will replace exclusive political geography, and the state and war will wither away. "If the United States can recognize the primacy of supply chain geopolitics," he suggests, "it would be less likely to undertake costly military interventions that can do more harm than good." And yet the lesson of history seems to be that the only thing that has consistently discouraged actors from using force to try to solve their problems has been a top-down Leviathan.

Khanna sees the world evolving into "a planetary civilization of coastal megacities," which, he says, "should be more interested in supply chain continuity than imperial hegemony. Trading cities want coast guards and counterterrorism more than foreign occupations and nuclear weapons. They prefer constellations of relationships rather than a single overpowering Leviathan. A world of open melange cultures such as Zanzibar and Oman, Venice and Singapore, would be a more peaceful world than one of Orwellian mega-empires. We should strive toward such a Pax Urbanica."

I think Khanna is right that this is where the post-1989 trends seem to be taking us. But a longer-term perspective suggests, first, that we will get there only if everyone rationally assesses the good of the system as a whole and sticks to on-path behavior and, second, that shorter-term, more selfish assessments regularly upset expectations. Russian President Vladimir Putin did not annex Crimea in 2014 because he had an out-of-date map of political geography rather than a new one of functional spaces; he did it because he knew that the old meanings of geography are still with us, and that allowing a Westward-leaning Ukraine to take Crimea into NATO's orbit would pose an existential threat to Russia. We are not yet free of the Westphalian world.

Connectography is one of the most stimulating and enjoyable books on the ongoing transformation of geography that anyone could ask for, and I wish very much that I'd been able to read it half a dozen years ago while I was writing Why the West Rules — For Now. That said, it only reinforces my view that while geography is changing its meanings faster than ever, we still have a long way to go before it changes so much that it ceases to mean anything at all.
213  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cruz wins 40 of WA's 41 delegates on: May 23, 2016, 07:28:06 PM
http://www.glennbeck.com/2016/05/22/washington-state-gop-convention-supports-cruz/
214  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Trump's tax issues on: May 23, 2016, 02:49:29 PM
http://www.glennbeck.com/2016/05/23/for-the-records-week-in-review-trump-has-tax-problems-bigly/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20160523GlenBeckDailyV2_FINAL&utm_term=Smart%20List%20-%20Responsive%20Group%20B%20v2
215  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Dhimmitude: Eagles of Death Metal concerts being cancelled on: May 23, 2016, 11:58:21 AM
https://www.clarionproject.org/analysis/band-whose-concert-was-attacked-isis-has-gigs-canned#
216  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Kurds will continue to get fuct on: May 23, 2016, 11:54:01 AM
Analysis

It has been said that the Kurds are a nation without borders, though that is only partly true. They are, of course, citizens of any number of countries, ones that envelop their homeland in the Middle East and ones much farther afield. But for the Kurds — a nation of some 25 million people who, despite their shared culture, speak different languages, practice different religions, subscribe to different political ideologies and hold different passports — citizenship is not such a simple matter.

It would be more accurate to say that Kurds, having assimilated into countries they do not consider their own, tend to be citizens in name but not in practice. And they are subject, therefore, to discrimination and outright oppression. In Turkey, Kurdish language curricula are still banned in most schools. In Iraq, an estimated 50,000 to 100,000 Kurds were killed in the late 1980s during Saddam Hussein's al-Anfal campaign. In Iran, as many as 1,200 Kurdish political prisoners were allegedly executed after the Iranian Revolution of 1979.

The Kurds had no choice but to assimilate, for the country most of them would prefer to call home — Kurdistan — does not exist and probably never will.

Countless other ethnic groups have lobbied for independence, but this is the story of the Kurds, who for more than a century have tried and failed to create a state of their own. Their failures were, perhaps, inevitable; establishing a state is difficult when the disenfranchisement of its prospective citizens has been codified into international law. The 1923 Treaty of Lausanne — which replaced the failed Treaty of Sevres, a document that sought to set up a bordered Kurdistan — saw to that. Still, the Kurds succeeded in doing so, albeit briefly, in 1946, with the creation of the Mahabad Republic, a nominally Kurdish enclave in Iran that was supported by the Soviet Union and lasted less than a year. They have succeeded, moreover, in earning a degree of autonomy, if not outright statehood, with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq, as well as in the Rojava area of northern Syria.

And so the Kurds find themselves not entirely displaced but not entirely with a state of their own, awkwardly situated in a region punctuated by chaos and exploited by foreign powers. The explanation for their predicament begins, as is so often the case, with geography.
Shattered Identities

Kurdistan, the colloquial name given to the Kurds' historical homeland, is a landlocked region that lies at the crossroads of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. The Zagros Mountains cut through its core from the southeast to the northwest, forming a formidable terrain that has impeded the kind of cohesion endemic in the countries that surround it. The Kurds, therefore, are ethnically distinct from their Arab and Turkish neighbors, even if many of them share the same Sunni religious tradition. (There are, notably, pockets of Jewish, Shiite, Yazidi and Zoroastrian Kurds scattered throughout the region.) And though the Kurds more closely approximate Persians than they do any other ethnic group, they are culturally unique, and that has imbued them with a strong, singular identity.

But if the conditions of their existence forged a singular cultural identity, those same conditions shattered their linguistic identity. Kurdish dialects fall roughly into two categories: Kurmanji in the north (Turkey, Armenia, Syria and northern Iraq) and Sorani in the south (central Iraq and Iran). Those who speak different dialects can generally understand one another, but there can be major linguistic differences. And, in keeping with the complexity of Kurdish identity politics, there is also a branch of the Gorani dialect known as Zaza, spoken by as many as 4 million in Turkey who sometimes identify as Kurds and sometimes as a distinct group.

Those conditions have also created political divisions. Most of the region's various organizations generally agree that the Kurds should create a state of their own, but they disagree on the best way to do so. Some advocate cooperating with state governments; others do not. Those disagreements have sometimes turned violent. When Iraq's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) allied with the government in Ankara in August 1995, for example, Turkey's Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) responded by attacking the KDP — a stark reminder of the cost of supporting a regional adversary.

As if this were not enough, external benefactors have exploited these rivalries to contain the growth of independent Kurdish states. Their reasons for doing so are manifold. There is, of course, the issue of territory, which no state would voluntarily surrender to anyone, let alone an ethnic minority that could challenge its rule. Nor does any state want to set a precedent that would encourage other ethnic minorities in the Middle East to secede. States also block Kurdish statehood for financial reasons. Turkey, for example, wants continued access to northern Iraq's energy resources, not to mention its continued influence over Iraqi Kurdistan — hence its decision to support the KDP. Iraq, too, benefits financially from the oil revenue generated by the KRG, which it might be less inclined to share with Baghdad were Kurdistan an actual state.

What complicates the issue further is that in their efforts to exploit the Kurds, these states compete with one another as well. In fact, there is an ongoing competition in which Iran and Turkey use their affiliate Kurdish parties to jockey for influence in the KRG. A recent alliance between the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the offshoot Gorran party appears to imperil the Turkey-KDP association for now, but if history is any indication, the situation could change at a moment's notice.
The Drive for Autonomy

With so much at stake, it is little wonder that governments in the region have repeatedly silenced Kurdish calls for independence. Failed uprisings have taken place in Syria, Iran, Turkey and Iraq since World War II. But in 1991, the Gulf War and another unsuccessful rebellion of Iraqi Kurds reinvigorated the Kurdish drive for autonomy. International condemnation of Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait — and the United States' subsequent no-fly zone over Iraq — created a safe space in which a de facto Kurdish state began to emerge. Political unity remained elusive, however, and in 1994 civil war broke out between two of Iraq's biggest Kurdish parties: the KDP, supported by the Turkish and Iraqi governments, and the PUK, backed by the Turkish PKK and the Iranian-influenced Badr Brigade. It was not until four years later that the United States was able to broker peace between the two parties, which, along with the other Kurdish parties, now constitute nearly 20 percent of the Iraqi legislature.

The extremist groups that have sprung from the militant arms of these political parties continue to hinder the formation of a Kurdish state. Turkey's Kurdistan Freedom Falcons, the urban terrorist wing of the PKK, have launched attacks for more than a decade, though their assaults have become more frequent over the past few months. An Iranian PKK offshoot, the Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan, meanwhile, has sporadically attacked Iranian security forces in Kurdish-majority areas for the better part of a decade. Iranian voters tend to remember these bouts of violence when they go to the polls and have frequently voted against Kurdish candidates accordingly.

But there are some recent signs of cohesion. The conflicts in Iraq and Syria have brought Kurdish factions a little closer together, thanks to the rise of a common enemy: the Islamic State. Despite their conflict-ridden past, even the PKK and KDP are working together to combat the jihadist group, though the KDP continues to allow Turkey to strike PKK targets on a regular basis. Still, deep fissures remain among the Kurdish people. The KDP and PUK, in particular, continue to squabble as the PUK works to ensure that it remains free of the KDP's control, even going so far as to strike deals with Baghdad to do so. Because these groups command their own armed forces, known as peshmerga, in the struggle against the Islamic State, tension among them often translates into incoherence and territorial losses on the battlefield. So while Iraqi Kurds have had some success in establishing a de facto state, a broader Kurdish state is unlikely to emerge anytime soon.

Instead, the Kurds will continue to be easy targets for foreign powers — even ones outside their region of origin — that want to use them for their own political ends. The British did so in Turkish Kurdistan in the 1920s, and the United States is doing so now in Syria, where it supports Kurdish Peoples' Protection Units to wage a proxy war against the Islamic State. And it is these powers, not the ones that aspire for a united and independent Kurdistan, that will shape the future of the Kurds.
217  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor assesses the Norks, part one on: May 23, 2016, 11:45:31 AM
Summary

Editor's Note: This is the first installment of a five-part series examining the measures that could be taken to inhibit North Korea's nuclear weapons program. The purpose of this series is not to consider political rhetoric or noninvasive means of coercion, such as sanctions. Rather, we are exploring the military options, however remote, that are open to the United States and its allies, along with the expected retaliatory response from Pyongyang.

Few countries intrigue and perplex like the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Isolated by choice from the ebbs and flows of the international system, North Korea is an island of its own making. It is often painted as a weak, fearsome lunatic with delusions of grandeur and aspirations to become a nuclear power, but the truth is a little more complicated. Despite outward appearances, Pyongyang is not reckless in its ambition. Nor does it foolhardily invite destruction. It walks a fine line, hoping to quietly attain a credible nuclear deterrent without inciting world powers to take decisive action.

Deterrence has always been a part of North Korea's survival strategy. Pyongyang's calculated disarray is primarily for the benefit of potential aggressors, advising caution should provocation lead to a disproportionate response. Thriving on contradiction, Pyongyang simultaneously depicts itself as fragile to the point of collapse yet immeasurably strong. This act has served the Kim dynasty well, gaining concessions from major powers that normally would not have been afforded.

North Korea has a good read on the world's inability and unwillingness to respond, not only because of upcoming U.S. elections but also because of the risk of pre-emption: Pyongyang's conventional deterrent raises the cost of intervention far higher than it is at most other places. The window for a military option to stem Pyongyang's nuclear program is closing, but that does not necessarily mean a strike is more likely now than before. Still, the balance is delicate, and should Pyongyang overplay its hand, the repercussions could be catastrophic.
Analysis

North Korea's biggest fear is to be coerced into a position of subservience, having to prostrate itself before China (its primary benefactor) or another powerful country. Its carefully curated image of aggressive unpredictability is intended to preserve its authoritarian and regulated society and, as a result, its isolation. The North is unlikely to expose itself to the international community unless it can guarantee two things: the primacy and security of its leaders, and an effective military deterrent. And there are few deterrents as effective as nuclear weapons. Pyongyang's unswerving progress toward developing a nuclear capability reflects the singular obsession with which it chases its goals and why the West takes its threats seriously.
North Korea's Geographic Challenge

Security and longevity have always been at the forefront of Pyongyang's reasoning. In the immediate aftermath of World War II, the Korean Peninsula was divided into its constituent parts, sandwiching a Russian-backed northern Korean administration between mainland China and the U.S. Army Military Government in Korea to the south. North Korea flourished during the Cold War, maintaining strong connections with the rest of the communist bloc. Until the 1970s, North Korea was more prosperous than the South. Things changed, however, in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.

As Cold War structures crumbled around the North and its defense partners became less viable, Pyongyang realized it had to adapt to survive, especially in the face of a burgeoning South Korea. Beyond an asymmetric approach to defense — including assassination attempts, high-profile kidnappings, bombings and subterranean excavations — North Korean began pursuing other options to safeguard its existence. It soon realized that a fledgling nuclear program provided a weighty bargaining chip. Transitions of power within the ruling Kim family served to make Pyongyang only more insular and unpredictable. The Inter-Korean Summit in 2000 led to a reduction of provocation across the peninsula, but Pyongyang's imperatives remained unchanged.

Being branded a rogue state by the United States did little to dampen the flame of juche, the ideology installed by Kim Il Sung and the epitome of Korean self-reliance. Juche effectively calls for North Korea to stand alone economically, militarily and on the world stage. North Korea began to act up again in 2010, in advance of another transition of power within the Kim family, sinking a South Korean naval vessel and launching artillery at a prominent border island. Then in 2013, the country threatened once more to withdraw from the 1953 Armistice Agreement. Under Kim Jong Un's tenure, North Korea has prioritized strategic weaponry over all else. Despite widespread condemnation from the international community, Pyongyang has actually accelerated its nuclear weapons program, for it sees a credible nuclear arsenal as the only guarantor against Western-imposed regime change.
A Generational Congress

All eyes were on North Korea for its 7th Workers' Party Congress at the beginning of May, the first such meeting in more than 35 years. It was also the first time Western journalists were invited en masse to attend, albeit with strict limitations and the ever-present threat of deportation. The congress served many purposes, not least of which was to consolidate and institutionalize Kim Jong Un's rule and move away from the informal lines of command and political fiefdoms that developed under the rule of his father. Shedding his previous title of first secretary, Kim was introduced as party chairman for the first time.

During his address on May 7, Kim was quick to point out the advances made by the country's nuclear weapons and missile programs. He singled out Pyongyang's burgeoning nuclear capability as the protective layer that will enable economic development, a concept known as byungjin. But considering that North Korea's nuclear aspirations have saddled the country with economic sanctions, the statement appears somewhat ironic. That said, the announcement of a five-year economic plan is telling: Kim is accepting the kind of responsibility once shouldered by his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, and solidifying his primacy at the head of the people's republic.

Pyongyang is optimistic to consider itself a nuclear power. A variety of tests and launches indicate that North Korea is assembling the constituent parts of a re-entry vehicle, but nothing decisively suggests that it has a fully functional nuclear ballistic missile. The country's fourth successful underground nuclear test was conducted Jan. 6, followed a month later by a satellite launch into orbit. This was trailed by ground tests of a rocket nose cone capable of withstanding atmospheric re-entry. Meanwhile, North Korean scientists proceeded with the controlled ignition of a solid rocket engine and, allegedly, the development of a miniaturized nuclear warhead.

On top of these nuclear stepping-stones were a number of ballistic missile tests, including the use of mobile land-based platforms and submarine launches, the latter theoretically within strike range of Guam and Japan. Though these tests included some failures — most notably three successive failures of the Musudan mobile intermediate-range ballistic missile system — they demonstrate clear progress in developing most of the individual segments of a viable nuclear deterrent. And North Korea's intent is to keep progressing until Pyongyang has a survivable weapon it can launch at short notice that will deliver a nuclear payload to the continental United States.

In response, efforts by the international community seeking denuclearization of North Korea are falling short. Pyongyang's position is deliberately opaque, primarily because it is beneficial to keep the West uncertain as to North Korea's true capabilities. If the missile program's well-publicized failures can nonetheless create enough doubt in the minds of U.S. policymakers, it might be enough to defer any possible strike. If success is not assured in North Korea's nuclear program, is direct action justifiable? Yet, North Korea is coming late to the nuclear game, and the technologies it is pursuing are already decades old. For many strategists and speculators alike, it is simply a case of when, not if. The key question then becomes: Can the United States afford to let Pyongyang cross the nuclear Rubicon? If the answer is no, then consideration must be given to the ways in which countries opposing North Korea, primarily the United States and South Korea, will use military force to neuter the nuclear program and impose compliance. The threat alone might be impetus enough for Pyongyang to take the final steps, as Stratfor's expert on North Korea, Rodger Baker, considers:

    As Pyongyang approaches a viable nuclear weapon and delivery system, the pressure is rising for the United States and other countries to pre-empt it. Consequently, the final moments of North Korea's transition from a working program to a demonstrated system are the most dangerous, providing a last chance to stop the country from becoming a nuclear weapons state. For North Korea, then, these final steps must happen quickly. Because 2016 is a presidential election year in the United States, Pyongyang may feel it has a window to finalize its nuclear arms program while the United States is preoccupied with domestic politics and unlikely to take military action. Furthermore, having just held parliamentary elections and facing a presidential contest in 2017, South Korea, too, is in the midst of political transition. North Korea is making a gamble, one that bets both on its read of U.S. politics and on its own ability to overcome technological hurdles.

This is the cost calculation faced by policymakers in the United States and South Korea as they consider a political decision that could lead to military action. The United States is the singular military power that has both the intent and the capability to conduct such an operation and would naturally take the lead. Washington has also been branded a target for North Korean aggression, along with Seoul and Tokyo.

In the coming installments, we will examine the options available to the United States and its allies should they decide to act militarily against North Korea. We will also consider, in turn, the nature of any retaliation or counterstrike by Pyongyang. The focus here is on offensive action rather than diplomacy, though it is important to note that Washington does not make decisions lightly or in isolation. Though political will must drive military intent, the opportune time for offensive action is rapidly running out. This, theoretically, makes the final stages of Pyongyang's nuclear program the most risky — it is clear the North is nearing the final steps, and once it has a viable nuclear weapon, it is too late for Washington to intervene. These are the waning moments for any practical intervention. In light of this, the second part of this series will examine what targets would need to be struck if the United States chooses to take action.
218  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 2 articles: Glick, Spengler: South China Sea is Lost on: May 23, 2016, 11:32:34 AM

1)  SPENGLER:  http://atimes.com/2016/05/americas-instructive-humiliation-in-the-south-china-sea/

 America’s instructive humiliation in the South China Sea: Spengler

By David P. Goldman on May 20, 2016 in AT Top Writers, China, David P. Goldman, Southeast Asia, Spengler   

“Let us admit it fairly, as a business people should: We have had no end of a lesson: it will do us no end of good,” wrote Rudyard Kipling in 1902 after the Boers humiliated the British Army in the first round of the Boer War. America should express the same gratitude towards China, which has humiliated America in the South China Sea. By exposing American weakness without firing a shot, Beijing has taught Washington a lesson which the next administration should take to heart.

Last year I asked a ranking Pentagon planner what America would do about China’s ship-killer missiles, which reportedly can sink an aircraft carrier a couple of hundred miles from its coast. If China wants to deny the American navy access to the South China Sea, the official replied, we can do the same: persuade Japan to manufacture surface-to-ship missiles and station them in the Philippines.

It didn’t occur to Washington that the Philippines might not want to take on China. The country’s president-elect Rodrigo Duterte explained last year (as David Feith reported in the Wall Street Journal), “America would never die for us. If America cared, it would have sent its aircraft carriers and missile frigates the moment China started reclaiming land in contested territory, but no such thing happened … America is afraid to go to war. We’re better off making friends with China.”

statue_planet

It isn’t only the Philippines who see the obvious. China claims the support of 40 countries for its position that territorial claims to the South China Sea should be resolved by direct negotiations between individual countries, rather than before a United Nations tribunal constituted under the UN Convention on Law of the Seas, as Washington wants. A joint statement by the foreign ministers of China, Russia and India after a meeting in Moscow last month supported China’s position.

The 7th Fleet was the eight-hundred-pound gorilla in the South China Sea after World War II, relying on a weapons system now more than nine decades old, namely the aircraft carrier. That was before China fielded its DF-21 “carrier killer” surface-to-ship missile. The latest iteration of the missile, designated DF-26, reportedly has a range of 2,500 miles. New technologies, including lasers and rail guns, might defeat the new Chinese missiles, but a great deal of investment would be required to make them practical, as a January report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies argued.
DF-26 missiles at 2015 WWII victory parade in Beijing

DF-26 missiles at 2015 WWII victory parade in Beijing

The new generation of diesel-electric submarines first launched by Germany in the early 1980s, moreover, is quiet enough to evade sonar. Diesel electric subs “sank” American carriers in NATO exercises. Even without its surface-to-ship missiles, which can swamp existing defenses of US vessels, China’s stealth submarines can sink American carriers, and anything else that floats.

Perhaps a greater concern is the next generation of Russian air defense, the new S-500 anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems might make the American F-35 stealth fighter obsolete before it becomes operational. Writing in The National Interest, Dave Majumdar warns that the new Russian systems are “so capable that many US defense officials worry that even stealth warplanes like the F-22, F-35 and the B-2 might have problems overcoming them.” Pentagon officials think that the present generation of Russian anti-aircraft missiles embodied in the S-400 can overcome the jamming capabilities of existing F-16’s. Once Russia put a few S-400 systems on the back of trucks in Syria, it owned the skies over the Levant. The Pentagon doesn’t want to find out how good it is.

Russian commentator Andrei Akulov details the alleged superiority of the S-500, due for deployment next year:

    The S-500 is expected to be much more capable than the current S-400 Triumph.

    For instance, its response time is only 3-4 seconds (for comparison, the response time of S-400 is nine to ten seconds).

    The S-500 is able to detect and simultaneously attack (as well as make speeds of up to 4.3 miles per second) up to ten ballistic missile warheads out at 600 km flying at speeds of twenty-three thousand feet per second.

    Prometey can engage targets at altitudes of about 125 miles, including incoming ballistic missiles in space at ranges as great as 400 miles.

Akulov concludes, “It’s not often that a relatively inexpensive air defense weapon is able to make a trillion dollar fighter program obsolete. That’s exactly what the S-500 missile system will do to US brand new F-35 stealth fighter.”
US F-35

US F-35

China and Russia have narrowed the technology gap with the United States, and in some instances have probably leapfrogged America’s military. In the past, the United States responded to such circumstances (for example the Russian Sputnik launch of 1957) by pouring resources into defense R&D at national laboratories, universities and private industries. Instead, Washington today is spending the lion’s share of a dwindling defense budget on systems that may not work at all.

At an estimated lifetime cost of $1.5 trillion, the F-35 is the costliest weapons system in American history. Even before a myriad of technical problems delayed its deployment, Pentagon planners warned that the flawed aircraft would degrade US defenses by consuming most of the Pentagon’s research and development budget. A still-classified report signed by several four-star generals was handed to President George W. Bush midway-through his second term warning of this baleful outcome. Bush ignored it. Former Air Force official Jed Babbin detailed the aircraft’s flaws in the Washington Times last year, concluding, “The F-35 program is an example of how weapons shouldn’t be bought. It needs to be stopped in its tracks.”

Those are the facts on the ground (as well as the air and sea). It’s not surprising that America’s allies in Asia want an accommodation with China. Nothing short of a Reaganesque effort to restore America’s technological edge will change this.

The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the view of Asia Times.

(Copyright 2016 Asia Times Holdings Limited, a duly registered Hong Kong company. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)


=======================

2)  GLICK

China took over the Spratly Islands, and with them, the South China Sea last week. Due to the fact that the US has scrapped the navy, spent in excess of a trillion dollars on the F-35 that still isn't operational, and devoted its attentions to making the military friendly to men who prefer dresses, in the face of China's move, the US has no options. It has been checkmated.

This means that the US has lost the South China Sea to China, and with it, its dominant position that it has held since World War II.

This is the biggest story of the decade from the perspective of global security and US national security. And yet, there has been almost no coverage of the event, no coverage of the significance of China's action. There has been no notable discussion of what this means for US-China trade, what it means for the alliance structure the US built in the far East with Japan and South Korea.

There are two main reasons for the silence.

First, as Ben Rhodes said so contemptuously, most reporters don't know anything international affairs. And so they cannot fathom the significance of the massive changes taking place in the global arena. They are simply too stupid or ignorant or ideologically driven to adequately cover their subjects and their editors are too stupid' politically motivated or driven by internet ads to understand why it is important to publish stories that have nothing to do with Beyonce or Bruce Jenner in a dress.

The other reason there has been no discussion of this massive loss of US power is because the White House doesn't want to discuss it. Obama has marketed himself as a genius. His pivot to Asia, was brilliant. His plan to apologize to the Japanese for the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki which put an end to World War II and saved the lives of an estimated 1 million American soldiers, is the last word in 21st century statecraft.

It wouldn't do for the public to be made aware of the fact that Obama's imbecilic stewardship of US-Asian relations has led to China emergence as the predominant power in Asia at America's expense.

And since in the echo chamber, the Blob reports what Ben Rhodes and Obama tell them to report, there has been radio silence.

For more information read my friend David Goldman's story linked in the first response. 
============================================================

 America’s instructive humiliation in the South China Sea: Spengler

By David P. Goldman on May 20, 2016 in AT Top Writers, China, David P. Goldman, Southeast Asia, Spengler   

“Let us admit it fairly, as a business people should: We have had no end of a lesson: it will do us no end of good,” wrote Rudyard Kipling in 1902 after the Boers humiliated the British Army in the first round of the Boer War. America should express the same gratitude towards China, which has humiliated America in the South China Sea. By exposing American weakness without firing a shot, Beijing has taught Washington a lesson which the next administration should take to heart.

Last year I asked a ranking Pentagon planner what America would do about China’s ship-killer missiles, which reportedly can sink an aircraft carrier a couple of hundred miles from its coast. If China wants to deny the American navy access to the South China Sea, the official replied, we can do the same: persuade Japan to manufacture surface-to-ship missiles and station them in the Philippines.

It didn’t occur to Washington that the Philippines might not want to take on China. The country’s president-elect Rodrigo Duterte explained last year (as David Feith reported in the Wall Street Journal), “America would never die for us. If America cared, it would have sent its aircraft carriers and missile frigates the moment China started reclaiming land in contested territory, but no such thing happened … America is afraid to go to war. We’re better off making friends with China.”

statue_planet

It isn’t only the Philippines who see the obvious. China claims the support of 40 countries for its position that territorial claims to the South China Sea should be resolved by direct negotiations between individual countries, rather than before a United Nations tribunal constituted under the UN Convention on Law of the Seas, as Washington wants. A joint statement by the foreign ministers of China, Russia and India after a meeting in Moscow last month supported China’s position.

The 7th Fleet was the eight-hundred-pound gorilla in the South China Sea after World War II, relying on a weapons system now more than nine decades old, namely the aircraft carrier. That was before China fielded its DF-21 “carrier killer” surface-to-ship missile. The latest iteration of the missile, designated DF-26, reportedly has a range of 2,500 miles. New technologies, including lasers and rail guns, might defeat the new Chinese missiles, but a great deal of investment would be required to make them practical, as a January report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies argued.
DF-26 missiles at 2015 WWII victory parade in Beijing

DF-26 missiles at 2015 WWII victory parade in Beijing

The new generation of diesel-electric submarines first launched by Germany in the early 1980s, moreover, is quiet enough to evade sonar. Diesel electric subs “sank” American carriers in NATO exercises. Even without its surface-to-ship missiles, which can swamp existing defenses of US vessels, China’s stealth submarines can sink American carriers, and anything else that floats.

Perhaps a greater concern is the next generation of Russian air defense, the new S-500 anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems might make the American F-35 stealth fighter obsolete before it becomes operational. Writing in The National Interest, Dave Majumdar warns that the new Russian systems are “so capable that many US defense officials worry that even stealth warplanes like the F-22, F-35 and the B-2 might have problems overcoming them.” Pentagon officials think that the present generation of Russian anti-aircraft missiles embodied in the S-400 can overcome the jamming capabilities of existing F-16’s. Once Russia put a few S-400 systems on the back of trucks in Syria, it owned the skies over the Levant. The Pentagon doesn’t want to find out how good it is.

Russian commentator Andrei Akulov details the alleged superiority of the S-500, due for deployment next year:

    The S-500 is expected to be much more capable than the current S-400 Triumph.

    For instance, its response time is only 3-4 seconds (for comparison, the response time of S-400 is nine to ten seconds).

    The S-500 is able to detect and simultaneously attack (as well as make speeds of up to 4.3 miles per second) up to ten ballistic missile warheads out at 600 km flying at speeds of twenty-three thousand feet per second.

    Prometey can engage targets at altitudes of about 125 miles, including incoming ballistic missiles in space at ranges as great as 400 miles.

Akulov concludes, “It’s not often that a relatively inexpensive air defense weapon is able to make a trillion dollar fighter program obsolete. That’s exactly what the S-500 missile system will do to US brand new F-35 stealth fighter.”
US F-35

US F-35

China and Russia have narrowed the technology gap with the United States, and in some instances have probably leapfrogged America’s military. In the past, the United States responded to such circumstances (for example the Russian Sputnik launch of 1957) by pouring resources into defense R&D at national laboratories, universities and private industries. Instead, Washington today is spending the lion’s share of a dwindling defense budget on systems that may not work at all.

At an estimated lifetime cost of $1.5 trillion, the F-35 is the costliest weapons system in American history. Even before a myriad of technical problems delayed its deployment, Pentagon planners warned that the flawed aircraft would degrade US defenses by consuming most of the Pentagon’s research and development budget. A still-classified report signed by several four-star generals was handed to President George W. Bush midway-through his second term warning of this baleful outcome. Bush ignored it. Former Air Force official Jed Babbin detailed the aircraft’s flaws in the Washington Times last year, concluding, “The F-35 program is an example of how weapons shouldn’t be bought. It needs to be stopped in its tracks.”

Those are the facts on the ground (as well as the air and sea). It’s not surprising that America’s allies in Asia want an accommodation with China. Nothing short of a Reaganesque effort to restore America’s technological edge will change this.

The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the view of Asia Times.

(Copyright 2016 Asia Times Holdings Limited, a duly registered Hong Kong company. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)
219  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way forward for Republican party on: May 23, 2016, 04:55:50 AM
http://www.daybydaycartoon.com/comic/the-wind/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+DayByDayCartoon+%28Day+by+Day+Cartoon+by+Chris+Muir%29
220  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Fracking sand vs. farmland on: May 23, 2016, 04:43:34 AM
The Sand Mines That Ruin Farmland

By NANCY C. LOEBMAY 23, 2016


Chicago — WHILE the shale gas industry has been depressed in recent years by low oil and gas prices, analysts are predicting that it will soon rebound. Many of the environmental hazards of the gas extraction process, called hydraulic fracturing or fracking, are by now familiar: contaminated drinking water, oil spills and methane gas leaks, exploding rail cars and earthquakes.

A less well-known effect is the destruction of large areas of Midwestern farmland resulting from one of fracking’s key ingredients: sand.

Fracking involves pumping vast quantities of water and chemicals into rock formations under high pressure, but the mix injected into wells also includes huge amounts of “frac sand.” The sand is used to keep the fissures in the rock open — acting as what drilling engineers call a “proppant” — so that the locked-in oil and gas can escape.

Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota are home to some of the richest agricultural land anywhere in the world. But this fertile, naturally irrigated farmland sits atop another resource that has become more highly prized: a deposit of fine silica sand known as St. Peter sandstone. This particular sand is valued by the fracking industry for its high silica content, round grains, uniform grain size and strength. These qualities enable the St. Peter sand to withstand the intensity of fracking, and improve the efficiency of drilling operations.

In the Upper Midwest, this sandstone deposit lies just below the surface. It runs wide but not deep. This makes the sand easy to reach, but it also means that to extract large quantities, mines have to be dug across hundreds of acres.

At the end of 2015, there were 129 industrial sand facilities — including mines, processing plants and rail heads — operating in Wisconsin, up from just five mines and five processing plants in 2010. At the center of Illinois’s sand rush, in LaSalle County, where I am counsel to a group of farmers that is challenging one mine’s location, The Chicago Tribune found that mining companies had acquired at least 3,100 acres of prime farmland from 2005 to 2014.

In the jargon of the fracking industry, the farmland above the sand is “overburden.” Instead of growing crops that feed people, it becomes berms, walls of subsoil and topsoil piled up to 30 feet high to hide the mines.

But the effects cannot be hidden indefinitely. These mines are destroying rural communities along with the farmland. Homesteads and small towns are being battered by mine blasting, hundreds of diesel trucks speed down rural roads dropping sand along the way, stadium lighting is so bright it blots out the night sky, and 24-hour operations go on within a few hundred feet of homes and farms. As a result, some farmers are selling and moving away, while for those determined to stay, life is changed forever.

Quality of life is not their only concern. Silica is a human carcinogen and also causes lung disease, including silicosis. Because of its dangers, silica is heavily regulated in the workplace, but there are generally no regulations for silica blown around from the sand-mining operations. These mines also use millions of gallons of groundwater every day. Local wells are running dry, and the long-term availability of water for homes and farms is threatened.

Because of the recent slowdown in the fracking industry, many of the sand mines stopped or slowed production, providing temporary respite to these rural communities. But with oil edging back up toward $50 a barrel, and projected to go higher, the Midwest farmlands face a renewed threat.

The sand mines do promise jobs. But it’s shortsighted to rely on a new fracking boom when we’ve already seen how vulnerable the business is to cyclical dips. America’s frac sand industry shrank to about $2 billion last year from $4.5 billion after the price of oil plummeted in 2014. As mines were mothballed or shuttered, hundreds of miners and truckers were laid off.

Even assuming a coming recovery, there may be as few as 20 to 30 jobs in a mine covering hundreds of acres — a mine that may operate for only 20 years. When the sand is exhausted, the mine is a hole in the ground and the jobs are gone. The farms that it replaced provided employment and sustenance for centuries.

There are alternatives to this despoliation. Not all frac sand is buried under prime farmland. Texas, Kansas, Arkansas and Oklahoma all have usable frac sand that is not “burdened” by rich prairie earth, and transportation costs there are often lower.
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In the Midwest, we badly need more legal restraints on how frac sand mines operate. People must be protected from blowing silica. Sand piles should be covered and mines set a safe distance from homes, farms, schools and public spaces. At present, such regulations are often lax, and local residents have rarely won the needed protections from local or state governments eager to cash in on the boom.

Groundwater, too, needs stronger safeguards. A good example to follow is LaSalle County, which in 2013 placed a moratorium on new high-capacity wells needed for mining pending the results of a United States Geological Survey study in part funded by Northwestern, where I teach, of the capacity of groundwater supplies to support new mines.

Unfettered frac sand mining is ruining the rural communities of the Midwest. All people are left with are thousands of acres of holes in the ground in place of what was once rich, productive farmland. That is too high a price to pay.

Nancy C. Loeb, the director of the Environmental Advocacy Center, is an assistant clinical professor at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law.
221  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Mexico freaking out over Trump, begins to interfere with US election on: May 23, 2016, 04:36:03 AM
second post

MEXICO CITY — Vicente Fox, the former president of Mexico, was recently stuck in Mexico City traffic, overcome with frustration — not by the congestion, but by something that was irritating him even more: Donald J. Trump. He grabbed his phone, turned the lens on himself and pressed record.

“Ha! Donald,” Mr. Fox said, holding the phone perhaps a little too close to his face. “What about your apologies to Mexico, to Mexicans in the United States, to Mexicans in Mexico?”

In short order, the 15-second clip was on Mr. Fox’s Twitter feed — another salvo in a personal campaign against the American presidential candidate that has included television appearances, radio interviews and a fusillade of hectoring Twitter posts.

Mr. Fox’s voice is among a growing, if uncoordinated, chorus of influential Mexicans worried about what a Trump victory could mean for the complex relationship between the United States and Mexico — not to mention the impact Mr. Trump’s presidential bid may have already had.

The voices have included at least two former Mexican presidents, top government officials, political analysts, academics, editorial writers and cultural figures.

President Enrique Peña Nieto likened the candidate’s language to that of Hitler and Mussolini in an interview with Mexico’s Excelsior newspaper. And he recently shuffled his diplomatic corps in the United States, replacing Mexico’s ambassador to Washington and installing new consuls general around the country, in part to strengthen his administration’s response to the rise of Mr. Trump and what it reflects about American sentiment toward Mexico.

While many leaders around the world are worried about how Mr. Trump’s campaign, win or lose, could shape American foreign policy, the concerns are particularly pointed in Mexico and throughout the Mexican diaspora because of the exceptionally close geographic, economic, demographic and cultural ties between the two countries.

The two countries are now enjoying one of the more harmonious periods in a turbulent history. But many in Mexico fear that the friendship would rupture should Mr. Trump win the election and follow through on his threats to undo the North American Free Trade Agreement, force Mexico to pay for the construction of a wall between the countries by interrupting remittances and deport the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States, about half of whom are Mexican.

“His threat is cataclysmic, I think, for Mexico,” Enrique Krauze, a Mexican historian and literary magazine editor, said in an interview. “What it would mean for bilateral trade, in social terms, in the tearing of families, in the trauma, the collective panic, the opening of old wounds.”

He added: “I can use one of Trump’s favorite words. Yes, this is huge. It’s a huge danger.”

Mexican critics of Mr. Trump say he has already damaged the image of their country and of the Mexican people with his espousal of views that many regard as xenophobic. At a rally to kick off his campaign in June, the Republican candidate suggested that many Mexican immigrants were drug traffickers and rapists.

Mexican officials, concerned about negative impressions of Mexico in the United States, have been rolling out a strategy to improve the image of their country and show how the relationship between the two nations has been of “mutual benefit,” said Paulo Carreño, the newly appointed under secretary for North America in Mexico’s Foreign Ministry.

The strategy includes “cultural diplomacy,” grass-roots activism and the deployment of Mexican community and business leaders living in the United States, he said.

As part of the strategy, the Peña Nieto administration shook up its diplomatic corps in the United States last month: The Mexican ambassador to Washington, Miguel Basáñez Ebergenyi, who had been in the job less than a year, was abruptly replaced by Carlos Sada Solana, a veteran diplomat. In addition, 26 consulates changed leadership.

A statement from the Foreign Ministry announcing Mr. Sada’s appointment emphasized his experience “protecting the rights of Mexicans in North America, as well as defending the interests of Mexican abroad.”
Photo
Vicente Fox, a former Mexican president. His voice is among a chorus of influential Mexicans worried about what a Trump victory could mean for the relationship between the United States and Mexico. Credit Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

In addition, a few high-level government officials have reacted publicly to Mr. Trump, including Humberto Roque Villanueva, the Interior Ministry’s under secretary for population, migration and migratory affairs. He told the newspaper El Universal this month that the Mexican government was analyzing “how to confront what we would call the Trump emergency.”

“I believe Mr. Trump speaks off the top of his head and doesn’t have a clear idea about financial matters or international accords,” he added. “We live in a globalized world. The United States would have to return to a kind of Middle Ages to prohibit remittances or charge tariffs that aren’t charged in other parts of the world.”

In general, however, the administration has mostly refrained from commenting on the candidate.

That has frustrated many Mexicans, who have called on the government to come to the defense of Mexico and push back at Mr. Trump more forcefully.

“They can package that in the traditional Mexican nonsense: We don’t interfere in elections,” said Jorge Castañeda, a former foreign minister. “The real reason is that they have no idea what to do, so the default option is to do nothing.”

Instead, most of the Mexican agitation against Mr. Trump has come from the general public. At the beginning of his campaign, many Mexicans viewed Mr. Trump with a mixture of alarm and amusement. But the amusement has mostly fallen away.

“Why should we worry?” Mr. Krauze asked, rhetorically. “I couldn’t think of a reason not to worry, no?”

In the fall, Mr. Krauze and Carmelo Mesa-Lago, an emeritus professor of economics and Latin American studies at the University of Pittsburgh, drafted a letter denouncing Mr. Trump’s campaign. Sixty-seven prominent Latinos — academics, scientists, writers and filmmakers in the United States, Spain and Latin America — signed it.

“His hate speech appeals to lower passions like xenophobia, machismo, political intolerance and religious dogmatism,” the letter said.

In recent months, Mr. Castañeda has been pushing a pro-Mexico social media campaign with the hashtag #ImProudToBeMexican. Aiming at an American, English-speaking audience, he has uploaded videos to Facebook and a campaign website extolling the diversity of the Mexican diaspora and its contributions to the United States.

Explaining the American focus of this lobby, he said: “I don’t want to convince Mexicans how nasty Trump is, because everyone knows that. That’s a done deal.”

Mr. Fox’s drumbeat of harangues against Mr. Trump began in February when he declared in a television interview, using a forceful expletive, that Mexicans would not build the candidate’s proposed wall. He escalated from there, chiding Mr. Trump with language that sometimes devolved into schoolyard churlishness.

He called the candidate “a false prophet,” “dictator” and “loser.” He posted a selfie taken against the backdrop of a beach with this message: “Trump, this beautiful Cancun. YOU ARE NOT WELCOME HERE.” He posted photos from his wife’s birthday party, taunting Mr. Trump: “What do you know about love? Or you just know about hating. How sad!”

This month, Mr. Fox expressed contrition for some of his comments in an interview with Breitbart News and apologized to Mr. Trump. But amid blowback from Mexicans on social media and elsewhere who accused him of weakness, he resumed his badgering, posting photos on social media of a Trump-brand tie made in China and a Trump-brand jacket made in Mexico — evidence, he said, of the candidate’s hypocrisy.

Mr. Fox said in a telephone interview from his home in Guanajuato State that he was motivated to attack Mr. Trump by what he called “pure love for that great nation, the United States.”

“I don’t understand why the American public is buying this,” he continued, pain in his voice. “We are partners, we are neighbors, and we should be friends. He’s dividing not only American society, but he’s dividing two nations.

“Why does he pick on Mexico?”
222  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / People think backwards on: May 23, 2016, 04:30:54 AM
Some of you may remember the ditty I developed during my 1992 Congressional run: "People think backwards.  They choose the position that makes the emotional statement they wish to make about who they are, then they learn the facts and reasons to justify it.  This is why people do not change their minds when confronted with superior knowledge of the facts and/or superior logic.

The following piece from Pravda on the Hudson makes quite a similar point:
=========================================================



Bernie Sanders is widely credited with pulling Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party to the left on major issues like health care, trade, financial regulation and the minimum wage. Now he says he will battle all the way to the convention on behalf of “people who are prepared to fight for real economic and social change.” But the premise animating that battle — that Mr. Sanders’s surprising success in the primary race is because of his liberal policy positions — may be familiar and comforting, but it is greatly exaggerated.

The notion that elections are decided by voters’ carefully weighing competing candidates’ stands on major issues reflects a strong faith in American political culture that citizens can control their government from the voting booth. We call it the “folk theory” of democracy.

When candidates surpass expectations, observers caught up in the folk theory believe that they have tapped some newly potent political issue or ideology. Thus, many analysts have argued that Mr. Sanders’s surprising support signals a momentous shift to the left among Democrats.

But wishing does not make it so. Decades of social-scientific evidence show that voting behavior is primarily a product of inherited partisan loyalties, social identities and symbolic attachments. Over time, engaged citizens may construct policy preferences and ideologies that rationalize their choices, but those issues are seldom fundamental.

That is one key reason contemporary American politics is so polarized: The electoral penalty for candidates taking extreme positions is quite modest because voters in the political center do not reliably support the candidates closest to them on the issues. (Mitt Romney is just the most recent presidential candidate to lose despite being perceived by most voters as closer to their ideological views than his opponent on a spectrum running from “extremely liberal” to “extremely conservative.”)

The most powerful social identities and symbolic attachments in this year’s Democratic race have favored Mrs. Clinton, not Mr. Sanders. She has been a leading figure in the Democratic Party for decades, a role model for many women and a longtime ally of African-Americans and other minority groups. For many primary voters, that history constitutes a powerful bond, and their loyalties are propelling Mrs. Clinton to the nomination despite her limitations as a candidate.

Mr. Sanders, on the other hand, is a sort of anti-Clinton — a political maverick from lily-white Vermont whose main claim to fame has been his insistence on calling himself an independent, a socialist, anything but a Democrat. That history has made him a convenient vessel for antipathy to Mrs. Clinton, the Democratic establishment and some of the party’s key constituencies. But it is a mistake to assume that voters who support Mr. Sanders because he is not Mrs. Clinton necessarily favor his left-leaning policy views.
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Exit polls conducted in two dozen primary and caucus states from early February through the end of April reveal only modest evidence of ideological structure in Democratic voting patterns, but ample evidence of the importance of group loyalties.

Mr. Sanders did just nine points better, on average, among liberals than he did among moderates. By comparison, he did 11 points worse among women than among men, 18 points worse among nonwhites than among whites and 28 points worse among those who identified as Democrats than among independents.

It is very hard to point to differences between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Sanders’s proposed policies that could plausibly account for such substantial cleavages. They are reflections of social identities, symbolic commitments and partisan loyalties.

Yet commentators who have been ready and willing to attribute Donald Trump’s success to anger, authoritarianism, or racism rather than policy issues have taken little note of the extent to which Mr. Sanders’s support is concentrated not among liberal ideologues but among disaffected white men.

More detailed evidence casts further doubt on the notion that support for Mr. Sanders reflects a shift to the left in the policy preferences of Democrats. In a survey conducted for the American National Election Studies in late January, supporters of Mr. Sanders were more pessimistic than Mrs. Clinton’s supporters about “opportunity in America today for the average person to get ahead” and more likely to say that economic inequality had increased.

However, they were less likely than Mrs. Clinton’s supporters to favor concrete policies that Mr. Sanders has offered as remedies for these ills, including a higher minimum wage, increasing government spending on health care and an expansion of government services financed by higher taxes. It is quite a stretch to view these people as the vanguard of a new, social-democratic-trending Democratic Party.

Mr. Sanders has drawn enthusiastic support from young people, a common pattern for outsider candidates. But here, too, the impression of ideological commitment is mostly illusory. While young Democrats in the January survey were more likely than those over age 35 to call themselves liberals, their ideological self-designations seem to have been much more lightly held, varying significantly when they were reinterviewed.

Moreover, warm views of Mr. Sanders increased the liberalism of young Democrats by as much as 1.5 points on the seven-point ideological scale. For many of them, liberal ideology seems to have been a short-term byproduct of enthusiasm for Mr. Sanders rather than a stable political conviction.
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Perhaps for that reason, the generational difference in ideology seems not to have translated into more liberal positions on concrete policy issues — even on the specific issues championed by Mr. Sanders. For example, young Democrats were less likely than older Democrats to support increased government funding of health care, substantially less likely to favor a higher minimum wage and less likely to support expanding government services. Their distinctive liberalism is mostly a matter of adopting campaign labels, not policy preferences.

Abraham Lincoln promised Americans “government of the people, by the people, for the people,” a notable departure from the republican system set up by the architects of the Constitution. In the 150 years since Lincoln, the ideal of government “by the people” has reshaped Americans’ democratic aspirations and their political practices — for example, in the Progressive Era introductions of direct primary elections and referendums and initiatives. It has also altered the way journalists and analysts see and describe electoral politics.

But that ideal makes sense, descriptively and normatively, only if citizens understand politics in terms of issues and ideologies and use their votes to convey clear policy signals that then determine the course of public policy. Americans’ commitment to the folk theory of democracy may make them wish that elections worked that way. But in the case of Bernie Sanders, as so often, belief in the folk theory is an act of faith, not realism.
223  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / CA Gun stuff-- immediate action asked for on: May 22, 2016, 10:24:45 PM
https://www.firearmspolicy.org/alerts/urgent-gunpocalypse-may-be-voted-on-again-as-early-as-monday/?mc_cid=e1e632a657&mc_eid=c42be3e26b
224  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Fascism, liberal fascism, progressivism, socialism, crony capitalism: on: May 22, 2016, 04:36:57 PM
Very interesting read.  Please post on Rants thread as well.
225  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: May 22, 2016, 03:04:33 PM
I'm well aware of that.
226  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Buying Sticks Riverside or Hermosa Beach on: May 22, 2016, 02:48:50 PM
If you place your order with us we can arrange to meet so you can pick them up.

227  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: May 22, 2016, 02:45:08 PM
IIRC there is a goodly dose of antisemitism thrown in too.
228  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Secrets of the Fannie and Freddie bailout on: May 22, 2016, 01:50:18 PM
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/22/business/how-freddie-and-fannie-are-held-captive.html?emc=edit_th_20160522&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=49641193
229  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Austria looks to be headed hard right on: May 22, 2016, 01:48:29 PM
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/22/world/europe/migrant-crimes-add-volatile-element-to-austrias-election.html?emc=edit_th_20160522&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=49641193
230  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam/Jihadis vs. Airplanes on: May 22, 2016, 01:46:54 PM
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/22/world/middleeast/egyptair-plane-crash-security-threats.html?emc=edit_th_20160522&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=49641193&_r=0
231  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Islam/Jihadis vs. Airplanes on: May 22, 2016, 01:41:44 PM
http://therightscoop.com/just-in-egyptair-pilot-told-colleagues-he-was-ready-to-die-brother-calls-him-a-martyr/
232  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Soros funding NPR on: May 22, 2016, 10:23:28 AM
Read this latest dispatch from Omri Ceren, political analyst and The Israel Project senior adviser, breaking down the blockbuster AP story on how the group that helped sell Iran nuke deal also funded media. It is an extraordinary window into how media is bought and paid for. It’s deeply disturbing, like watching sausage being made.

Here’s the back-story on how and why the media supported the most dangerous “deal” in American history — Obama’s nuclear pact with Iran.
“A group the White House recently identified as a key surrogate in selling the Iran nuclear deal gave National Public Radio $100,000 last year to help it report on the pact and related issues, according to the group’s annual report. It also funded reporters and partnerships with other news outlets.” Aaron Klein notes, not mentioned in the AP article is that the Ploughshares Fund is financed by billionaire George Soros’ Open Society Institute.

For those of you smart enough to never trust big media — here’s the concrete evidence of your “tin foil hat” theories.
 
AP: In The New York Times Magazine article, Rhodes explained how the administration worked with nongovernmental organizations, proliferation experts and even friendly reporters to build support for the seven-nation accord that curtailed Iran’s nuclear activity and softened international financial penalties on Tehran.

Omri Ceren: In his NYT profile, Ben Rhodes put the Ploughshares Fund at the center of the echo chamber constructed by the White House to sell the Iran deal: “We are going to discourse the [expletive] out of this… We had test drives to know who was going to be able to carry our message effectively, and how to use outside groups like Ploughshares, the Iran Project and whomever else” [a].

The Ploughshares Fund is a donation hub that has distributed millions of dollars in recent years to groups pushing the Iran deal. After Congress failed to defeat the deal, Ploughshares President Joseph Cirincione published a video and letter boasting about how the echo chamber – over 85 groups and 200 people – was created with Ploughshares money: “groups and individuals were decisive in the battle for public opinion and as independent validators… they lacked a common platform – a network to exchange information and coordinate efforts. Ploughshares Fund provided that network… we built a network of over 85 organizations and 200 individuals… We credit this model of philanthropy – facilitating collective action through high-impact grantmaking – with creating the conditions necessary for supporters of the Iran agreement to beat the political odds” .

The Associated Press just published a deep dive into Ploughshares’s most recent annual report, which details some of those 85 organizations and 200 individuals. The full article is pasted below. The AP broke down the network funded by Ploughshares into three kinds of groups:

— Journalists and media outlets (this is the part that’s getting the most attention, and includes NRP and at least two unnamed writers who were funded to write at Mother Jones and The Nation):

Ploughshares has funded NPR’s coverage of national security since 2005, the radio station said. Ploughshares reports show at least $700,000 in funding over that time. All grant descriptions since 2010 specifically mention Iran… Previous efforts… Ploughshares has set its sights on other media organizations, too. In a “Cultural Strategy Report” on its website, the group outlined a broader objective of “ensuring regular and accurate coverage of nuclear issues in reputable and strategic media outlets” such as The Guardian, Salon, the Huffington Post or Pro Publica. Previous efforts failed to generate enough coverage, it noted. These included “funding of reporters at The Nation and Mother Jones and a partnership with The Center for Public Integrity to create a national security desk.”

— Think tanks and nuclear-issues associations:

The 33-page document lists the groups that Ploughshares funded last year to advance its nonproliferation agenda. The Arms Control Association got $282,500; the Brookings Institution, $225,000; and the Atlantic Council, $182,500… Princeton University got $70,000 to support former Iranian ambassador and nuclear spokesman Seyed Hossein Mousavian’s “analysis, publications and policymaker engagement on the range of elements involved with the negotiated settlement of Iran’s nuclear program.”

— Lobbies:

Other groups, less directly defined by their independent nuclear expertise, also secured grants. J-Street, the liberal Jewish political action group, received $576,500 to advocate for the deal. More than $281,000 went to the National Iranian American Council.
 
On May 5 the NYT published its profile of Ben Rhodes, in which Rhodes bragged about creating an “echo chamber” with the Ploughshares Fund to sell the Iran deal on the basis of false pretenses [a]. A few hours ago the AP published a deep dive into Ploughshares showing that the group is funding a range of lobbies, policy shops, and journalists and media outlets, all of which are bouncing Iran messaging back and forth between each other .

Aspects of the Ploughshares network had already been reported out. In Feb 2012 the WFB reported on Ploughshares funding NPR [c]. In March 2015 the WSJ reported “the Ploughshares coalition includes a former Iranian government spokesman, the liberal Jewish organization J Street and a group of former American diplomats who have held private talks with Iranian government officials… [and] the Arms Control Association” [d]. In July 2015 the WFB printed details of a Ploughshares conference call that brought together White House officials with over 100 participants, in which groups were told to prepare for a “real war” that would involve “blitzing the hell out of the Hill,” pressuring Congressional Democrats, and leaning on Jewish groups [e][f]. In August 2015 Commentary published 1,500 words and a couple dozen links naming names in the network [g].

What hadn’t been widely discussed – until today’s AP story – was that Ploughshares has been directly funding journalists and media outlets in the context of the politicized Iran deal fight. In case you’re running down this angle, here are some documents published by Ploughshares Fund describing the group’s efforts in its own words.

— In 2014 Ploughshares commissioned a “Cultural Strategy Report.” It laid out how the organization could use PR firms, Hollywood studios, video games, and journalists to create a “cultural strategy that could complement existing funding and operational activities.” Here is part of the section describing directly funding journalism [PDF here – h]:

Similar to an academic chair, directly fund one or more national journalism positions at media outlets like The Guardian, Salon, Huffington Post, or Pro Publica, whose exclusive “beat” and focus of investigation and reporting would be nuclear weapons, disarmament, and nonproliferation… We understand that similar efforts supported by Ploughshares Fund in the past did not generate the desired volume of coverage (funding of reporters at The Nation and Mother Jones and a partnership with the Center for Public Integrity to create a national security desk). However we feel this strategy would be more successful by focusing on themes, media outlets and journalists who resonate with the target audiences (youth and faith communities) and by pursing this strategy in concert with other approaches.

— In 2015 Ploughshares published a video and letter from Ploughshares President Joe Cirincione titled “How We Won.” Cirincione boasted that the group leveraged its funding so lobbyists, policy voices, and journalists could “coordinate efforts” to push the Iran deal. The video ends with a scrolling list of groups involved. The letter goes into detail on how Ploughshares leveraged funding to create its network :

These groups and individuals were decisive in the battle for public opinion and as independent validators… they lacked a common platform – a network to exchange information and coordinate efforts. Ploughshares Fund provided that network. Often, networks can make all the difference… We built a network of over 85 organizations and 200 individuals in favor of a negotiated solution to the Iranian crisis… We credit this model of philanthropy – facilitating collective action through high-impact grantmaking – with creating the conditions necessary for supporters of the Iran agreement to beat the political odds.
A lot of work is now being done on how the Iran deal echo chamber worked and funded. Two other articles from the last 48 hours: how Ploughshares also funded faith groups to be part of the pro-deal network [j] and how the network was mobilized this week to attack witnesses who testified in front of the House Oversight Committee on the White House’s sales campaign [k].—

[a] http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/08/magazine/the-aspiring-novelist-who-became-obamas-foreign-policy-guru.html
http://bigstory.ap.org/article/7044e805a95a4b7da5533b1b9ab75cd2/group-helped-sell-iran-nuke-deal-also-funded-media
[c] http://freebeacon.com/issues/public-radio-pay-to-play/
[d] http://www.wsj.com/articles/obama-ramps-up-lobbying-on-iran-1427674427
[e] http://freebeacon.com/national-security/white-house-officials-plot-ways-to-pressure-lawmakers-into-supporting-iran-deal/
[f] http://freebeacon.com/national-security/white-house-instructs-allies-to-lean-on-jewish-community-to-force-iran-deal/
[g] https://www.commentarymagazine.com/american-society/economy/money-behind-iran-nuclear-deal-ploughshares/
[h] http://www.ploughshares.org/sites/default/files/resources/M+A_Ploughshares_culture%20report.pdf
http://www.ploughshares.org/issues-analysis/article/how-we-won
[j] http://www.algemeiner.com/2016/05/20/ben-rhodes-echo-chamber-on-iran-had-many-supporters
[k] http://nypost.com/2016/05/18/obamas-iran-echo-chamber-just-cant-stop/
- See more at: http://pamelageller.com/2016/05/obama-admin-funded-journalists.html/#sthash.bsP71mGq.dpuf
233  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Retirement, pensions, social security, and related matters on: May 21, 2016, 10:40:38 PM
When the individuals representing government negotiate with public unions they know that the unions will be supporting or opposing them in the next elections with both money and manpower.
234  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Natural Law, the right to self-defense, gun rights, and the Second Amendment on: May 21, 2016, 10:38:37 PM
A point I have been making via my expressions of Ninth Amendment theory.

http://tenthamendmentcenter.com/2016/05/03/the-right-to-keep-and-bear-arms-is-a-natural-right-not-a-constitutional-right/
235  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / How Kosovo went Wahabbi/ISIS on: May 21, 2016, 09:14:26 PM
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/22/world/europe/how-the-saudis-turned-kosovo-into-fertile-ground-for-isis.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=1
236  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Dinesh D'Souza on: May 21, 2016, 05:12:11 PM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vWXZ-whusxY&feature=youtu.be
237  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH Op-Ed piece on: May 21, 2016, 10:43:55 AM
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/21/opinion/legalized-pot-free-trade.html?emc=edit_th_20160521&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=49641193&_r=0
238  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH editorial on: May 21, 2016, 10:42:10 AM
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/21/opinion/playing-chicken-in-the-south-china-sea.html?emc=edit_th_20160521&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=49641193
239  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The movie in question in the Citizens United decision on: May 21, 2016, 10:33:58 AM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QQKAaPgwj_U

and here is the trailer for the next movie from the same people:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?annotation_id=cc0c6e10-bc78-4b0a-9c8e-d5fa370c4c38&feature=cards&src_vid=oMDB-2r0w80&v=r7e6gLht6OQ
240  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Paul Weston on: May 20, 2016, 11:56:56 PM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-hPCnel0qc&sns=em
241  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Security Guard arrested on: May 20, 2016, 08:05:26 PM
http://dailycaller.com/2016/05/19/security-guard-arrested-for-removing-man-from-womens-bathroom/?AID=7236
242  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Illinois pensions on: May 20, 2016, 07:54:58 PM

Illinois State Workers, Highest Paid in Nation, Demand 11.5 to 29% Hikes

18WednesdayMAY 2016

POSTED BY MISHGEA | May 18, 2016 6:28:10 | ECONOMICS
≈ 40 COMMENTS

Illinois state workers, are the highest paid in the nation. Yet, despite the fact that Illinois is for all practical purposes insolvent, the AFSCME union demands four-year raises ranging from 11.5 to 29 percent, overtime after 37.5 hours of work per week, five weeks of vacation and enhanced health care coverage.
AFSCME workers already get platinum healthcare benefits that would make nearly everyone in the country green with envy.

This is a guest post from Ted Dabrowski at the Illinois Policy Institute, of which I am a senior fellow.

For years, Illinois taxpayers haven’t been represented at the bargaining table between Illinois’ largest government union and the state. Illinois’ former governors cared more about appeasing the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees than protecting the taxpayers the governors were supposed to represent. That’s how AFSCME workers have become some the highest-compensated state workers in the nation.
 
Now the union is working overtime to remove Gov. Bruce Rauner – who actually represents taxpayers’ interests – from labor contract negotiations. The union supports House Bill 580, which would strip the governor of his ability to negotiate. AFSCME wants the current contract dealings turned over to unelected arbitrators who are likelier to decide in the union’s favor.

AFSCME wants to remove the governor from contract negotiations because union officials know Rauner will not agree to outrageous demands. Union leaders are demanding $3 billion in additional salary and benefits for union members in a new contract. They’re seeking four-year raises ranging from 11.5 to 29 percent, overtime after 37.5 hours of work per week, five weeks of vacation and enhanced health care coverage. Those additional demands would come on top of the costly benefits that AFSCME workers already receive.

Here are four facts about state-worker compensation the union doesn’t want taxpayers to know:

1. Illinois state workers are the highest-paid state workers in the country

Illinois state workers are the highest-paid state workers in the country when adjusted for cost of living. Illinois pays its state workers more than $59,000 a year, far more than its neighbors and nearly $10,000 more than the national average.  Moreover, state AFSCME workers have received salary increases not matched in Illinois’ private sector.  Median AFSCME worker salaries increased more than 40 percent from 2005 to 2014, reaching more than $62,800. During that same period, median private-sector earnings in Illinois remained virtually flat.
 
2. AFSCME workers receive Cadillac health care benefits

In addition to paying state workers the highest salaries in the nation, Illinois taxpayers also subsidize a majority of AFSCME workers’ Cadillac health care benefits.  The average AFSCME worker receives the ObamaCare equivalent of platinum-level benefits, but only pays the equivalent of bronze-level insurance premiums. That forces a vast share of AFSCME workers’ health care costs onto state taxpayers.  AFSCME workers pay for just 23 percent of their health care costs, or $4,452 a year. State taxpayers pay the remaining 77 percent, or an average of $14,880 per worker.

3. Most state workers receive free retiree health insurance

The state also subsidizes 100 percent of the health insurance costs for state retirees who spent 20 or more years working for the state. Such a benefit is almost unheard of in the private sector.  This benefit costs taxpayers $200,000 to $500,000 per state retiree. An ordinary worker in the private sector thus would need to have $200,000 to $500,000 in the bank before retirement to purchase the insurance most retired state workers get for free.
 
4. Career state retirees on average receive $1.6 million in pension benefits

Thanks to unrealistic pension rules, career state workers – meaning those who work 30 or more years – will average $1.6 million in benefits over the course of their retirements.  That’s on top of Social Security benefits, which nearly all state workers receive. In addition, over half of state workers end up retiring in their 50s.
 
It’s not fair that Illinois residents, struggling with stagnant incomes in one of the nation’s weakest economies, continue to subsidize AFSCME benefits to such an extent.  Many other unions that contract with the state have recognized that taxpayers can’t afford higher taxes to fund even greater pay and benefits for state workers. Officials from more than 17 unions, including the Teamsters, understood the depth of Illinois’ fiscal crisis and agreed to affordable contracts with the state.

AFSCME, which represents a mere 0.5 percent of Illinois’ total labor force (35,000 state workers out of a total 6.5 million workers), is putting undue pressure on the state and its finances.  The General Assembly needs to allow the governor’s veto of HB 580 to stand.  Instead of increasing benefits as AFSCME has demanded, the state should work to bring its employees’ total compensation more in line with what the private sector can afford.

Ted Dabrowski
Vice President of Policy
Question of Fairness
The AFSCME seeks “fairness”.

I wholeheartedly agree. Here is my eight-point proposal.

1.   Cut AFSCME salaries an average of 40%
2.   Make AFSCME employees contribute 50% to health care plans.
3.   Drop AFSCME retiree health benefits entirely. Put them on Medicare.
4.   Put caps on pension pay.
5.   Kill defined benefit pension plans entirely for new hires.
6.   Pass right-to-work legislation.
7.   Allow municipalities to go bankrupt.
8.   Kill all prevailing wage laws,

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
243  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Saudi liquidity crisis? on: May 20, 2016, 07:49:42 PM
second post


18WednesdayMAY 2016

POSTED BY MISHGEA | May 18, 2016 11:33:21 | ECONOMICS
≈ 28 COMMENTS

Liquidity Crunch or Worse

Saudi Arabia burnt through its reserves faster than anyone thought.

In signs of a huge liquidity crunch, at best, the country has delayed paying contractors and now considers paying them in IOUs and tradable bonds.
In retrospect, the Saudi threat to dump US assets looks more ridiculous than ever.

Please consider Saudi Arabia Considers Paying Contractors With IOUs.

Saudi Arabia has told banks in the country that it is considering giving contractors IOUs to settle some outstanding bills, according to people with knowledge of the discussions.  A projected budget deficit this year is prompting the government to weigh alternatives to limit spending. Contractors would receive bond-like instruments to cover the amount they are owed by the state which they could hold until maturity or sell on to banks, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information is private.

Contractors have received some payments from the government in cash and the rest could come in “I-owe-you” notes, the people said.
The government started delaying payments last year to prevent the budget deficit from exceeding $100 billion after the oil slump.

Beyond a Liquidity Crisis

Deficits don’t shrink if you delay paying the bills. Deficits arose because more money was spent than collected.  On May 17, the Senate Passed a Bill Allowing 911 Victims to Sue Saudi Arabia.  Obama threatens a veto. Meanwhile, Saudi threatens to dump $750 billion in U.S. securities and other American assets if the bill becomes law.

Does Saudi Arabia even have $750 billion. Color me skeptical.

Saudi Arabia’s bluff that it would sell US assets if the Obama signed the bill seems more ridiculous than ever.

For discussion of Saudi involvement in 911 and the alleged dumping threat please see Understanding the Saudi, Chinese “Economic Nuclear War” Threat; Saudi 911 Round-Up.

For discussion of Saudi Treasury holdings, please see Treasury Department Finally Discloses Saudi Treasury Holdings – Incorrectly?

There is no “nuclear” economic threat by Saudi Arabia or China as some have proclaimed.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
 
244  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Glick: Is anti-semitism entering into Rep Party foreign policy? on: May 20, 2016, 07:27:06 PM
http://www.jpost.com/printarticle.aspx?id=454481
245  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: May 20, 2016, 07:19:15 PM
Whoa.  Worth noting and remembering.
246  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Donald Trump on: May 20, 2016, 07:18:18 PM
Know that the original on the NRO site has paragraphs!  MUCH easier to read.

In my opinion, this matter of nothing serious on spending restraint/reduction by Trump is a huge and glaring weakness.  He should talk to Christie on this.

247  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Levee gonna break on: May 20, 2016, 12:10:06 PM
http://seekingalpha.com/article/3976647-levee-gonna-break-debt-demographics-productivity-financialization?auth_param=evk9c:1bju97b:f15fdcb971747202ae04c6339000ce5b&uprof=46

248  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Airlines now offereing reduced fares for Cubans to Texas? on: May 20, 2016, 11:31:15 AM
http://www.breitbart.com/texas/2016/05/19/airlines-now-offering-free-reduced-airfare-cuban-migrants-texas/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social
249  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: The next phase of the Jihadi threat on: May 20, 2016, 11:28:07 AM
Forecast

    Although Islamic State-related attacks in Saudi Arabia have increased over the past year, strikes against hard targets still appear to be out of reach.
    For al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the end of a more than one-year unofficial truce with the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen puts Saudi targets back in the crosshairs.
    Saudi authorities may struggle to maintain control of the jihadist threat as Islamic State fighters return from Syria and Iraq with more advanced skills.

Analysis

Jihadism has deep roots in Saudi Arabia, the second-largest source of foreign militants in Iraq and Syria since the Syrian civil war began in 2011. Since the mid-2000s, Saudi security forces have contained the jihadist threat in the kingdom, aware of the economic and security dangers it could pose if left unchecked. But in the past year, Islamic State activity in Saudi Arabia — and a recent series of raids against alleged militants — has raised fears that the threat may be growing beyond authorities' control.

Saudi Jihadism: A Chronology

The jihadist threat in Saudi Arabia is nothing new. In mid-2002, al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia launched a campaign of attacks in the country against both foreigners and the Saudi government. Saudi authorities eventually dismantled the group, forcing its members to flee the country. Many relocated to Yemen, where they helped to found al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

Aside from a failed 2006 assault on the Abqaiq oil collection and processing facility, an amateurish attack in 2007 that killed three French citizens, and a foiled assassination attempt against Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Nayef in 2009, Saudi Arabia has been eerily quiet. But the calm was shattered in 2015 when militants associated with the Islamic State began bombing mosques in Saudi Arabia's restive Eastern Province in an effort to inflame sectarian tensions in the kingdom.

Before long, the attacks spread beyond Eastern Province and Shiite targets. After a series of raids in Taif in early July 2015, Saudi officials stopped a man wearing a suicide vest at a roadblock in Riyadh on July 16. To avoid capture, the man detonated his device, setting off a government crackdown that led to the arrest of over 400 alleged Islamic State supporters within two days.

The following month, a suicide bomber detonated explosives inside a mosque in Abha, a city in western Saudi Arabia. The attack killed 15 worshippers, including 10 members of a special Saudi state security unit, and wounded many others. Since then, three other attacks against Shiite mosques in Eastern Province have occurred, along with a handful of small bombings in Riyadh and several assassinations of police and security officers. In addition, a number of raids against Islamic State members have been conducted in Riyadh, Dammam and Asir.

A raid outside Mecca on May 5 sparked a firefight that left four Islamic State fighters dead. Saudi security forces fatally shot two of them — one of whom had been named a suspect in the Abha mosque bombing — and the remaining two detonated suicide bombs to avoid capture. The same day, two other Islamic State members were allegedly arrested in Jeddah. Three days later, two gunmen killed a security officer who thwarted their attempted attack on a police station outside Taif.
A New Generation

These attacks differ from al Qaeda's operations in the early 2000s, which targeted foreigners and employed large vehicle bombs. Al Qaeda's Saudi branch understood the importance of expatriates to the Saudi economy and sought to cripple it by driving them and their families out of the country. Al Qaeda's campaign included assassinations, armed assaults on expatriate housing compounds and even an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah. In April 2004, the U.S. Department of State issued a travel warning, advising U.S. citizens to defer travel to the country, and ordered all nonessential diplomatic and consular staff to leave Saudi Arabia.

The threat environment could change even more as Islamic State fighters return from Iraq and Syria, bringing with them experience gained on the battlefield. Like the previous generation of al Qaeda operatives in the kingdom, the Islamic State fighters could use their honed skills to conduct more complex and strategic attacks. Both groups have a history of attacking tourist attractions in Egypt and Tunisia to undermine those nations' economies. A more sophisticated Islamic State campaign might echo previous al Qaeda initiatives, targeting expatriates to impair the Saudi economy.

Don't Forget al Qaeda

In addition to the growing Islamic State menace, Saudi Arabia faces a renewed threat from AQAP. Following the March 2015 Saudi-led intervention in Yemen's civil war, al Qaeda and the Saudi coalition reached an unofficial truce: The Saudi coalition would refrain from attacking the group in exchange for the jihadists' cooperation in fighting Houthi forces and former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. AQAP benefited greatly from this arrangement, seizing the opportunity afforded by the chaos to snatch up large quantities of money, weapons and manpower while it controlled Mukalla. Despite losing several key leaders to U.S. airstrikes, the group is now arguably stronger in terms of men and resources than it has ever been.

But the truce fell apart on April 25. Coalition forces entered Mukalla after AQAP withdrew to avoid heavy casualties. As a result, the group will likely begin to attack coalition forces. Furthermore, it could draw on its increased might to relaunch efforts to export terrorism to Saudi Arabia. Since Saudis have always constituted an important component of AQAP, the group could try to use its ties in the kingdom to facilitate new attacks.

Despite the surge in jihadist activity in Saudi Arabia over the past year, there is currently no sign that Saudi authorities will lose control of the threat. Nonetheless, potential targets in the kingdom must practice heightened awareness as they look for signs of change in the jihadist threat, such as attacks on oil infrastructure or expatriates, the use of larger and more sophisticated explosive devices, or increased surveillance on possible attack sites.
250  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / DOJ and FBI at cross purposes? on: May 20, 2016, 02:58:20 AM
http://www.nationalreview.com/article/435393/hillary-clinton-e-mails-Cheryl-Mills-DOJ
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